Teachers don’t bite, I promise

Jack Goldfisher

I can’t speak with any conviction about much of anything that happened in the ancient Greek acropolises and I don’t know any Greek letters beyond what we’ve been forced to learn for math. One thing I do know about the goings-on of Athens in the 400s and 300s BC is that Plato and Aristotle, the two parts of the most famous student-teacher relationship in history, were great friends. The relationship between these two men, who shared a 43-year age difference, extended far beyond that of instructor and pupil.

One of the opportunities we’re afforded at Harvard-Westlake is a chance to learn from some of the smartest and most interesting people we’re likely to meet throughout our lives. Not only are our teachers knowledgeable about their respective fields of study, but many are just flat-out interesting and great conversationalists. It’s this luxury, and my opinion that my peers and I don’t take enough advantage of it, that makes me write what will be the most ostensibly dweeby statement I’ve published in my time on The Chronicle: make friends with your teachers.

I’m not advocating going in to department offices daily or putting an apple on your teacher’s desk every morning, but if you have a subject or class that you’re particularly interested in, it’ll probably be a worthwhile experience to talk to your teacher about your thoughts or ask them a question that’s been itching at you.

Don’t be disingenuous or attempt to force a relationship that isn’t there, but a solid friendship outside of class can enrich your discussions or lessons in the classroom. It may be somewhat intimidating to seek out a friendship with someone who is grading you and who might have as much as 50 years of life experience on you, but once you’ve established a connection beyond the few words you might exchange after class every other day, there’s great potential if your personalities seem to jive well together.

The father of a good friend of mine, let’s call him Tony, had a Latin teacher in high school who we’ll call Mr. Deinard who is, to this day, one of his closest friends. The two have even traveled together.

It may be because there’s some premature senior year nostalgia worming its way into my brain, but I’m going to want to be able to call up some of my teachers from high school in a few years and have a real, meaningful chat with them over dinner.

Not every student is Aristotle, and not every teacher is Plato, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t follow the example they set and forge strong bonds with our educators or with our students.

Take a free period and stroll side by side, draped in robes, with a teacher in a nonexistent Raphael piece, through The School of Studio City and contemplate “The Great Gatsby,” particle motion, Renaissance art or the Cold War. Oh, and watch out for Diogenes on the stairs.