Teacher Tuesday Spotlight: Mr. Jim Brown

February 9, 2021

Teacher Tuesday Spotlight: Mr. Jim Brown.

This evening’s interview was conducted by the US Digital Media Team (Mason Crowder, Brody Williams, Alex Kreger, JT Eberhart).

HA US DM: What is your favorite part about teaching English?

Mr. Jim Brown: Once upon a time, teachers were mainly sources of information, but in the last 25 years, all the information is available in a google search. If I am here for what I know, there’s not really a point since anyone can look anything up.  For English teachers, this has been a huge shift that allows us to focus more on inspiration than on pure instruction. I’ve been blessed to work in schools where school leaders trusted me to assign readings and create assignments that look more like philosophy often than “English.” We know that 16-18 year olds undergo yet another brain shift that allows them to think more abstractly. Hence, they hunger for readings about what things mean, more so than they desire to “know where the commas go.” It’s just pure fun for me to work with students for whom ideas are innately exciting.

HA US DM: What is your favorite poem and why?

Mr. Jim Brown: No sensitive reader has a single favorite poem, but the influence of the poet Gerald Stern on me has not been inconsiderable. In particular, I have spent nearly 30 years thinking about his poem The Expulsion, which is part elegy, part meditation on art, and part family memoir: My subject is loss, the painter is Massacio,/ the church is the church of the Carmine, the narrow panel/ is on the southwest wall. I make a mouth like Adam, I make a mouth like Eve, I make a sword like the angel’s.” I typed that from memory where that poem lives.

HA US DM: Who is your favorite book author and what book?

Mr. Jim Brown: Again, this would an ever changing list but I have been deep into Daniel Dennet’s “From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds.” In this he attempts to demonstrate how consciousness arose from particles like atoms, which are in themselves not conscious. Most striking is his powerful reminder that the universe is a product of its own design. All the patterns of complexity we observe, including our own minds, are based on simpler forms, a product in the long run of “competence without comprehension.” His application of Darwin’s “strange inversion of reasoning” to human consciousness is extraordinary.

Thank you, Mr. Brown, for all you do for our HA community!