Q/A with Mrs. Larson

Keana Saberi, Reporter

I walk in the room of my previous Language Arts teacher and i’m reminded of the fond memories I have made in this room. Mrs. Larson is sitting behind her desk amid the room’s vibrant background, jauntily typing on her computer. As I begin to talk to her I am reassured of her pure kindness, poise and how she radiates  with a certain glow when she smiles. She expresses how honored and thrilled she is to be interviewed as if she had just walked into a interview for an important job. We sit down and I look into the face of my seventh grade teacher, her expression jubilant and  anxious at the same time.

Q.What  motivated you to teach Language Arts?

A. I have always wanted to be a teacher, and I have always loved reading and writing. So It just seems natural that that’s what I would be teaching. Before when I was younger I felt like I wanted to teach Elementary School but then after I had my own children and I stayed home with them I realized that Seventh Grade is my favorite age of children.Seventh Grade Language Arts  has always been my dream job. I always thought about it and wished for it, and hoped for it and that’s my motivation. To share the love of reading and writing with wonderful kids.

Q. Mrs. Larson, can you  describe yourself in only three words?

A. I want to say that I have a rich inner life but how would I say it in one word? I mean that is one thing that really describes me, I have a rich inner life. My brain is constantly going and thinking of stories and ideas and I talk to myself. Maybe if I say it quickly. Rich Inner Life. My French friends or my friends who speak French, call me pétillant which means kinda of like fizzy or bubbly. I also believe in the need to be understanding, or fair.

Q.So what inspired your admiration for reading?

A.Well, my mother was always a big reader when I was a little girl and my dad was a reader and writer, he a was a writer for newspapers and we always just read in my house that’s just what we did. I loved reading because it took me away, you know, I could just go escape when things were eh or not great or sad or whatever I always found comfort in a book and go travel somewhere else. I grew up in East Texas in a small town and there wasn’t really anywhere to go so I went places with my books.

Q. How did you adjust at your first year at Canyon Vista?

A. Woah! So my first year at Canyon Vista was intense, last year. I think I adjusted well, I just jumped right in. You know? I was swimming, I was like treading water the whole time trying to figure everything out and to do everything to the best of my ability. I just put myself a hundred percent into it. All my heart into it. So that’s how I adjusted by putting my heart into it. And losing sleep.

Q. So how did you incorporate your passion for words into your teaching method?

A.This is easy because it’s just so natural for me. I just love it so much that I feel like, I hope that it just comes out and I can’t help it. It’s that inner life thing again, I just think about it all the time and so when I channel it towards you guys, to the kids, I find new ways to make you as passionate about it as I am.

Q. How did your years abroad broaden your sense of adventure?

A. It made me see that everybody is similar, that everyone is different, that things are different. That the world is a wonderful, kind place where people really wanna help you for the most part and share with you and I just love going places. It has  made my sense of adventure even more because I love traveling and I love seeing and learning new things. I always wanna learn; I am a lifetime learner.

Q. How do you create a positive environment for your students to write even when comes down to hushed, yet serious topics?

A.Well I think that starts with community building in the classroom, something I think I have done better this year than last year because I was trying to figure it out last year. But this year we took a week, the whole first week of school trying to be comfortable together, get to know each other  and it’s just a matter of building trust with my students and having them know that what they say and do with me is sacred to both of us and that I respect them. I won’t judge them, I won’t belittle them and that this is a safe place. My classroom is a place where we can all  be creative and share and be kind and understanding to one another.

Q. Have you all always enjoyed writing?

A. Yes, I always have. Even before I would write things down I would tell stories in my head, I was always making up stories. There is an audio of me from when I was around the age of three telling this story to my mom that I had made up. So yes,  I have always enjoyed writing.

Q. Name three of your favorite topics to write about.

A.Oh my goodness, I love WWII, I love that era  so I really like investigating and doing the research for that and writing about it. I love writing about my three kids, and I love writing about my food and my adventures.

Q. What aspirations do you draw from?

A. So I draw from life and it’s harder now in Texas because I know this life and I know this place so I’m not seeing so new and exciting every day. In France it was really easy and in Ireland because it was something different and crazy would happen every day, and so I had a lot of inspiration. But here I have to do what you have to do, I have to use my notebook strategies to get ideas out, to brainstorm. So I just get inspired from everywhere, from everything I see in here.  If it intrigues me I jot it down in my Writer’s Notebook so I don’t lose it so that if someday I need an idea I can come back to it. The world around me, Keana.

Q. Name a few of your all time favorite books ?

A.Right now in the past five years one of my favorite books is  ‘Life After Life’ by Kate Atkinson. I love that book. I really loved Sebastian Faulks’ ‘Birdsong’. Both of these books are during WWII. Oh and my all time Favorite would have to be ‘Charlotte’s Web’ because I loved it when I was a little girl and I just read it so much and I loved Wilbur and Charlotte so much.

Q. So this is a really random question but I’d love to know, how many Writer’s Notebooks do you think you own?

A. That’s  is so hard. I mean I have them in my drawers like hidden because I write in the mornings but, Keana. Oh I really don’t know but let’s say less than fifty more than thirty. Twenty five? More than twenty five. It might be more. It could be seventy but it could be fifty. I don’t want to exaggerate.

Q. Did you teach prior to Canyon Vista?

A.No, though I was a substitute teacher when I was pregnant with my daughter Sophia who is now fifteen and before that for like two years, while I was at school for teaching. Even though I was a long term sub for Second Grade, I never had my own classroom.

Q. How do you connect with your students on an intellectual level?

A. Oh that’s a good one. I guess I try not  to dumb anything down. Like when I talk in class with my students, I don’t use words that I wouldn’t use with an adult and if the kids don’t understand something I use that as a great opportunity to teach them some new vocabulary. So that’s why I have my intriguing words on the board, these are three words that the students, that we said  today together in class.  I want my students to be comfortable with trying new things and coming up with new ideas and not being afraid to say something and that we talk together about it. I kinda want it to be like a think tank place where we can express ourselves. Is that a answer?

I respond by saying that is exactly how I felt last year. Mrs.Larson  explains with gratitude that my words were very touching.” Thank you Keana.” We exchange pleasant smiles.

Q. If you could choose would  you rather continue on teaching or pursue a career as an author?

A.I would like to do the two if I could be focused enough. I would love to teach during the school year and write during the summer. I would like to take a sabbatical and eventually  after a few years I would like to go get a masters and teach at the college level. So that’s why I’d like to be a published author because if I was than I could probably teach at the college level without getting a going back to school. So they basically feed into each other. Because I draw inspiration from being a teacher, I mean I draw inspiration from you guys and having that thought all the time. Thinking about writing even though I do that anyway but it’s so nice to share it with kids and get ideas and live it. As much as I was living it three set hours a day before I started working.

Q. Could you give a piece of advice for students who’d like to become authors later on in life?

A. Yes, I would just say write. It’s what everyone says, butt in chair and write. It’s like a  famous quote from writers. Try and get to know yourself, know your habits, know your tendencies, know your shortcomings as  far as focus and discipline and work around those. Trust and believe in yourself, gosh I’ve got a lot of advice, and don’t judge yourself as your writing because if you’re judging yourself then you are not expressing yourself. You’ve gotta get past that to get anything out.

Q. And finally, in your own words, do you believe that the education system and parents alike value the importance of Language Arts as opposed to other core subjects such as Math and Science?

A. I feel like to some degree there has been a shift. I think Language Arts used to be more valued but I feel like there has been a huge shift now to kinda catch up and do all this Math and Science.  I feel like people just don’t get how important it is to be a thinker. I mean in Math and science you’re obliviously thinking, especially in Science with the Scientific Method. But you’re more well-rounded and developed as an intellectual, as critical thinker when you read all the time , try your hand at writing, when you have the rich inner life that you always want to learn, express yourself and you always wanna have new ideas in your mind. I think Language Arts really, really does that and it’s so subjective that you can be really expressive and there is no wrong answer and that bothers people. That bothers Math and Science people. And I get that. But that’s what I love about it.

That you can find your way, everybody can find their way especially like in Poetry. You can find solace , your comfort in it and it can be a friend to you if you let it be and not something that you hate. I feel like Language Arts is not as important for the education system as it is to me. But for us artists things like this swing back in forth and we are doing Writer’s Workshop now and we really value writing and people are really seeing that as important and as far your life goes that’s a lot more in our culture these days than it was before.There is getting to know writers and authors, author web pages, you know all that stuff.  So that is becoming more of an interest in the world. So maybe it is back on the swing again.

We conclude the interview, my heart swelling at how Mrs.Larson values and cares deeply for her students and their educations. Mrs.Larson truly has inspired me to write and to never stop.