Eliza Foster: At the Intersection…

Groton, MA — Academic experiences that stay with you are hard to quantify; you’ll often find them outside “direct systematic instruction.” When history and English teacher Eliza Foster reflected on her school years at the Academic Awards Assembly on Wednesday, September 20, she emphasized this point.

“I want to tell you about my 23 years in school in a way that represents where my best learning has happened,” she said. “And by ‘best learning,’ I don’t mean every academic success or accomplishment.

“I’d like to tell you about the kind of learning that has actually made me who I am.  The kind of learning that is exhausting, overwhelming, but also makes me feel more alive than anything else.”

The How and Where

For Ms. Foster, this kind of learning is not so much about the “what” as it is about the how and where.

“As I thought of these moments, I realized that they all had something in common,” she continued. “They all happened at the intersection of so many factors other than just the process of giving or receiving systematic instruction.

“The best way I can explain this to you is by telling you about two places where I constantly feel like my brain is on fire:  Bread Loaf, which is my graduate school program, and LA.”

Perhaps most rewarding is the connection between her time at Middlebury’s Bread Loaf Graduate School of English and LA has shaped itself into a kind of positive feedback loop.

“This system actually works in both ways for me,” she said. “Being a student in the summer makes me a better teacher, and being a teacher makes me a better student.

“My experience as a teacher in the classroom is something I can’t separate from my best learning moments. I teach because I love reading, writing, and thinking with you all…and that’s because of what you bring every day.”

Final Draft

After a seven-week struggle with a creative assignment during her first summer at Bread Loaf, Ms. Foster remembered standing before the printer, “watching the ink hit the page” of her final draft.

“I wrote much of that assignment at a picnic table with three of my classmates,” she recollected.  “The moment I watched my work print was surrounded by all the moments before it—all of the relationships to the people, and to this place.

“That’s the kind of learning that has shaped who I am.”

by Allie Goodrich ’13

One in a series of occasional features on Lawrence Academy faculty…