I sometimes wonder how many stars my school would have received on Yelp if it existed almost thirty years ago. I imagine the following reviews.

“Typical Cliques. Jocks. Nerds. Minorities, all in their own group.” Another would read, “uncreative classes. Teacher just goes on and on.” Another review may have read, “I have been in this class for almost a year, and the teacher does not know my name still, and I have no friends here.” “Three words: Boring. Boring. Boring.” Average score: 2 stars.  

In junior high and most of high school, I felt like the other students knew things that I wasn’t aware or part of. I dreaded being called upon the rare times I was because usually my mind would go blank, my accent would thicken, making it hard for others to understand me. Yet, there were some bright spots. Teachers and classes that I looked forward to because I felt seen, heard, and most of all, challenged.

All those classes had one thing in common: creative teachers. I never knew quite what to expect when I entered their classrooms, but from the beginning, each teacher made it a point to greet all who entered. Not just a perfunctory greeting, but one that entailed them looking each student in the eyes, and saying more than two words. More than that, there was exploration of ideas rather than lectures. I still remember reading quotes in English class, and then being asked to write and then talk about them in class. I also remember the science class where we had to guess what liquids were inside a gift-wrapped box, based on the description given by our always enthusiastic teacher. Those moments felt more like a play than class because it required participation, and also we, the students, acted a bit like teachers as we explained to each other what we thought.

We learned not just from the teacher, but from each other, and really those three classes out several dozens is why my school even got two stars from me. Those sole bright spots got me through school, and amazingly, those teachers instilled me in curiosity, confidence, and the knowledge that I could contribute. Those people got me to get interested in writing, critical thinking, and built up my self-worth.

It can be even more of a challenge to inspire creativity in students or embrace your own creativity while trying to juggle academic requirements, testing, and other issues in the classroom. It may be difficult, but it’s certainly not impossible, and accomplishing it can help to create a classroom environment that’s more motivational, interesting, and educational for both you and your students.

So, what would you Yelp about your school?

This post originally ran on the La Comadre blog here:

Coming from a long history of participating in community service, Sanjay got involved in the legal field to continue his service to others. After graduating from UCLA with a degree in English and Political Science, Sanjay took a year off to do Americorps, where he taught English in Lexington, Kentucky at an underserved school. Sanjay has continued to display his passion for improving the lives of others throughout his professional career. He currently volunteers to speak at schools through the Youth Business Alliance Program and participates in giving out food to the homeless in Stanton, California with the Illumination Foundation.


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