The material that Lindsey Bloodworth teaches in her 9th– and 10th– grade English classes at Ramsay High School can be difficult to get students excited about, so she uses some unconventional methods. When teaching Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 19th-century classic, The Scarlett Letter, a notoriously arduous staple of high-school English syllabi, Ms. Bloodworth imitated character Hester Prynne’s famous stand on the scaffold in town square. “I stood on my desk the whole day to read that opening scene,” she said. After that, the kids were hooked. On a later date, they wanted to keep reading even after the bell. “At the end of the class, when we were getting close to the bell and I told the kids we needed to stop for the day, they all simultaneously yelled ‘No!’ And this was about The Scarlett Letter.” Even Ms. Bloodworth, a devotee of American literature, had not anticipated the emotional reaction from her students: “I thought that would never happen, but it did.”
After growing up in Arab, Alabama, Ms. Bloodworth earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Political Science at Samford University. Afterwards, she worked for Samford’s University Fellows Program admissions office while earning her master’s degree from the university’s Orlean Bullard Beeson School of Education. In 2014, Ms. Bloodworth was accepted into the Teach For America corps and began teaching English at Ramsay, and she has remained there ever since. “Growing up, I always knew I wanted to help people,” she said about her journey to becoming a teacher. “In high school I thought that meant wanting to be a doctor, but I loved English and political science, not medicine. So, in college, when I was learning about problems in educational policy, it became very clear to me that there was a tangible solution I could provide, which was being a good teacher. Because all kids, no matter where they live, deserve a good teacher.” Her time in Teach For America inspired her from the start. “I got in front of my first group of kids at Teach For America training, and I thought, ‘I’m never gonna leave,” she said. “I cannot imagine feeling more purposeful than I do in the classroom.
During her time at Ramsay, Ms. Bloodworth has participated in Ramsay’s utilization of the statewide A+ College Ready program, which prepares ninth- and tenth-grade students for AP courses in their junior and senior years. “With the help of the Birmingham Education Foundation, Ramsay has continued to be an A+ College Ready school. It’s a program that helps teachers prepare students for AP classes in math, science, English, and history. So we do a lot of what’s called ‘Pre-AP Strategy.’ I think it’s just good teaching.” Ed, in association with the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), provides resource assistance for educator training in the pre-AP curriculum.
Ms. Bloodworth asserts that English literature is vital to student’s understanding of the world around them, no matter how old the material is. “Teaching at Ramsay has been a great opportunity for me to get in touch with the city, and what’s going on in the world,” she said. “My kids really do teach me something new everyday. The conversations we have about To Kill A Mockingbird and Julius Caesar are totally relevant to issues of justice and power that the kids encounter in real life.” She holds that reading not only teaches kids about far-away issues and situations, but also helps them to know themselves. “In the English classroom, if the kids aren’t learning more about who they are as people, then I’m not doing my job,” she said.
Most importantly, Ms. Bloodworth feels that good teaching comes from love and sincere interest in every student. “All kids are good kids,” she said. “I fundamentally believe that every kid that comes through BCS is good, and I think that is very important for every teacher to believe.”
This piece was written by Walt Evans, Summer Writing Fellow with the Birmingham Education Foundation, and rising senior at Sewanee: The University of the South.