An Independent School • Grades 5-12

Meet a Teacher: Andy Law

Laughing and learning in Middle School English
November 2014

Andy Law recalls his own middle school years vividly: “I was a terror. I wasn’t a good student, I ran my mouth, I got in trouble. I had to stay after school every day of 8th grade. I didn’t see the point of school.”

If only teenage Andy could have had a teacher like adult Andy Law.

Today, Law — in his 15th year of teaching and sixth year at Lakeside — draws on his challenging early experiences and quirky humor to help him connect with Middle School students. “It’s such an interesting brain time. It’s overgeneralizing, but these kids, especially the stereotypical 7th-grade boy — and I know, I was one — have the attention span of a goldfish. Humor keeps them roped in; they wonder what’s going to happen next.”

He often makes up songs and snaps his fingers to emphasize something important, for example, the need to risk failure and tamp down perfectionism. To encourage students to let go and turn in an “imperfect” first draft assignment, he leads them in singing rousing rounds of “It’s OHHH—KAAAAY—snap snap snap.” Because they’re middle schoolers, they join in. “They haven’t become too cool for it yet.”

And he especially relates to the kids “with a little sass on them, who are bored, or talk out loud. The ones who aren’t happy to memorize the periodic table or study all the time, that are snarky at every opportunity. I get that, because that was me.” He lets them “understand that they aren’t bad, but they operate differently.” He helps them figure out “what’s a different way of channeling this? How about collecting those ideas and putting them in a short story? Maybe make it about a kid who is kind of mouthy and the funny thing he says. Turn me into a monster teacher, totally unreasonable, and make yourself into the hero. And write about, how does this change their lives? Their school? You’ve got a great story.”