Q&A with Teri Hu

By Sean Duarte

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New English 1-2 teacher, Teri Hu, sat down with The Dragon to talk about herself and her opinions about d.tech.

Q: What has your experience been like here at d.tech so far?

I really like it so far. Here at d.tech, it is like there is a weight lifted from the usual high school atmosphere.

Q: What do you think of the workflow?

[I’m] not to sure about that yet. It’s only been a month and a half. For the most part, students seem relatively productive,  but I’m worried about less motivated students. In this kind of system, they wouldn’t be caught. If they’re not motivated or getting caught on their own, the system is not going to be enough to bring them up to speed. Some of these kids are really behind. When I took a look at their grades, I was shocked at how low they were. The grades do not reflect actual skill level of students.

Q: Your opinion on the students?

I love the kids, are you kidding? When I came in and saw the showcase, I was blown away by the work you do here.

It is proof that if you give young people freedom, and allow them to explore what they are interested in, they will exceed expectations every time.

Q: What do you think about the students’ attitude?

It’s great, and almost everyone seems to be doing something, but there’s not that undercurrent or potential for cruelty. It was something I had to look out for at previous schools. I haven’t seen students be mean to each other in that casual way that usually happens. Another thing is that groups are constantly shifting. I don’t see kids clustered in the hangar in the same spots with the same people everyday. There’s a lot more social fluidity.

Q: What do you think about the other teachers?

I like them. They are more open to listening to kids. They [are not like] ‘this is the rule do what I say.’ If a teacher asks why the kid is doing something, the kid explains why, and teacher lets them because they have a reason. It’s basic human respect. Just because they’re teenagers doesn’t mean they are subhuman. Sometimes though, it just gets tiring.

Q: What makes it tiring?

In a high school, there is constant tension … What I realized, is the kids have to put up with it for 4 years, and it’s exhausting. I’d been teaching at Washington High School in Fremont – the school that had the scandal a few weeks ago – for 16 years; it’s 4 times as exhausting. It sucked. I needed a break. … I’d always been a teacher that identified more with my students than my colleagues or superiors. In that environment, I felt oppressed, not empowered in my previous schools. If you Google my name, you will see some of the fights I had to fight. Censorship battles, multiple censorship battles actually, over the school newspaper, over books I wanted to teach. The school board was trying to restrict everything.

Q: What were they censoring?

Book like Bastard Out of Carolina, Angels in America. Both are critically acclaimed, and anyone who is literate knows why. I think it was the school board’s homophobia. Administration tried to stop us because it made them look bad – we refused. After that they made every little thing hard for us. A lot of general incompetence and dishonesty… That’s Fremont! A lot of hypocrisy, a lot of dirty nasty secrets because they won’t be honest about who they are. Another school I taught at had a hazing scandal.

Q: Hazing Scandal?

Apparently the water polo team hazed a new boy until he had an injury.  The coach was called out for creating an environment where that could happen. 

Q: I guess we can hope that d.tech will never have its own scandal.

I don’t think it will. There is not the fundamental dishonesty that is needed for that to happen. A scandal rises out of hypocrisy. Teens are good at calling out hypocrisy if you let them. You watch adults around you to see if they are someone to follow. Are they a good person to follow?  Is that the kind of person I want to be?

If the adults are dishonest, the teens follow. You can’t feel safe if you can’t trust what you are hearing.

Q: Ultimately, what was the last straw at Washington High?

The environment there. It was uptight, just like the rest of Fremont. [The administration] was about control; there’s only so much controlling and oversight you can put up with until your spirit breaks or you have to leave. If I stayed, I would have been angry, and that is not a good way to teach.

Q: How do you deal with all the problems you’ve faced?

Vent a little and let it go. If you hang onto things that upset you, it becomes a boil that festers. You need to let it out if you can’t fix the problem.

Q: Good advice. On another note, what is your favorite thing about d.tech?

The way it feels. The thing about oppressive learning environments are that they infect the teachers too. It feels like someone is out to get you. I get frustrated by the pointless bureaucracy; I was pretty fed up with conventional school when I left.

Q: So what do you think of design thinking?

I’m not actually totally sure what that is yet.  I’ve looked through the [staff] slideshow, but I did not really understand it. I think a lot of it is critical thinking and application of basic design principles. It seems logical and didn’t actually know that was the name for it, I guess.

Q: Anything you don’t like about d.tech?

Not really, no. … It is definitely noisy. It’s also kinda dirty; my allergies have gotten really bad. There is so much dust here. I don’t like the AstroTurf, but I don’t want to remove it, because I’m afraid the duct tape will come off and it will leave sticky stuff all over. There are a lot of little things we can work around, but I don’t know about the long term problems yet. It’s all temporary problems.

Q: Thoughts on the new campus?

It looks promising. The architecture looks nice. I drove by over spring break, and the classrooms are small compared to here. They’re about 50% larger than the average classroom in any school that I have been to. [Our current location] may be chaotic, but it is spread out.

Q: Anything else you want to say about d.tech or your time here?

I like the mascot. A dragon, that’s bad-ass. I’ve seen many different dragons [around campus]. I’m curious to see how it might be finalized. I think having logo and fixed identity will be an interesting step in the schools development.

 

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