Teachers We Love

Five educators share treasured takeaways from their years on the job.
John Meehan, Bishop O'connell

English teacher John Meehan (Photo by Skip Brown)

John Meehan

Former English teacher
Bishop O’Connell High School, Arlington
Years teaching: 12

Meehan taught English and trained fellow teachers at Bishop O’Connell through June of 2022. He is the author of EDrenaline Rush: Game-Changing Student Engagement Inspired by Amusement Parks, Mud Runs, and Escape Rooms, and co-founder of the education consulting company EMC2. In 2016, he was named to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Teacher Advisory Council, a cohort of 50 educators that met for two years to devise and help implement innovative education strategies.

I joke that we don’t really teach English or math or science or art or history. We teach people. We teach them how to find things they are interested in and things they find interesting. The sweet intersection between the things they love and the things that make them angry—that’s where their passion lies.

My own passion is English: writing, reading, speaking and presenting. The enthusiasm that we bring to our craft—it’s a word I used before the pandemic that is sort of gauche now—is infectious. We can spark a fire.

I think I live with the volume turned up to 11. I encourage others to do the same. When you lead with vulnerability, joy, excitement and curiosity, people can’t help but be in the room with you and say, “Okay, I don’t love what they love, but they clearly love it and I want to have anything in my life that I love quite that much.”

Someone told me that your favorite class is the one you like the most, and the best class is the one where you learn the most. If I do my job right, then my class would be both of those things for every student, every day. To do that, I need to give students the chance to be the star of the show, the center of attention. I need to create an environment where you show them how all the tools in the sandbox work and then say, “All right. Can you build me some really cool castles?”

I connect with students by figuring out what drives them. If Fortnite is popular, that means they like a little bit of competition. I’ll do a competitive game in class.

I do something my students characterize as the “Meehan Move.” One kid will bring up a point, another kid will bring up a counterpoint, and I’ll say, “Fight, fight, fight.” I don’t care what they say, I just care why they said it. Tell me why. If I’m talking, I’m selling something that they’re supposed to buy. But when they’re talking, they are all in.

The big secret of education—whether you’re teaching teenagers or teachers—is helping students see themselves in the content. –Stephanie Kanowitz

Categories: Education