An Interview with Ms. Schutt
A fairly unassuming classroom rests in the right corridor of the A building, with desks arranged in a semi circle and posters of inspirational quotes plastered over the walls. One juts out, however, for its boldness: “People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.”
Indeed, to take an English class with Ms. Schutt, the teacher who occupies this classroom, can be described as an unsettling of one's own writing patterns. It is challenging, but the challenge comes from a genuine desire to render students’ prose a point of pride. All the people I’ve spoken to that have taken a class of hers say they left the course a far better writer than when they started it. In honor of her retirement, I interviewed her about her experiences teaching and any advice she has moving forward.
Would you like to provide a brief introduction as to what you teach and how long you've been teaching?
I teach English. During my time at EHS, I've taught every grade level except 8. By the end of June, I will have completed 41 and a half years of teaching: 1 in New Jersey, 3 in the Dem. Rep. of the Congo with the Peace Corps, and 37 and a half in Edgemont!
Did you have any prior careers before teaching? If so, how do you think your prior experiences influenced your teaching?
No career before teaching, just one year working as an intern with a Quaker lobbying group and one year as a secretary at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
What do you think you've learned from your years in teaching?
Goodness, that's a big one! Let's see. Well, here are a few things I've learned:
Little things make big differences.
People are wonderfully resilient.
Even the worst day has its positives.
3 AM isn't the best time to make decisions.
Students are amazingly forgiving, thank goodness!
Even old dogs (like me) can learn new tricks (like a bit of technology, thanks to the many students who have saved me!)
Students make great coaches.
There's always so much more to learn, in every direction, surrounding every topic, and about every person!
Any notable experiences from Edgemont in particular? Is there anything that makes this school unique?
Notable experiences: getting to learn, each year, from truly wonderful students. It has been a lovely gift to study literature with students willing to connect with others through reading, discussion, and writing. I have been remarkably privileged to get to listen to students' astute insights, to read their poignant (and sometimes funny) writings, to marvel at their deep wisdom, and to be inspired by their great spirits, minds, and hearts.
If you could impart on your students one lesson, what would it be?
Judy Cook Ferriter, the founder of EHS's Alternative School, used to say, "Don't be afraid of your potential." I'd expound on that a bit, reminding students to trust themselves, to remember the joy of discovery, to recognize that mistakes can be valuable, to know that they can pick themselves up when they fall, and to reach out to others. Humanity is pretty wonderful, and we're all part of it; we can treasure what we find of it in ourselves and in others. Literature, writing, and discussion can help us do so!