Great Teaching Requires Great Relationships

Brooke Newsletter

At Brooke, great teaching is defined as ensuring that every student is both challenged and known. Great teaching means building relationships that  put the thinking on our students. Below, recent Brooke Alumni Derrell Parkinson ‘23 and Brooke High School humanities teacher Ms. Gabriella Sharpe interview each other and discuss great teaching and their relationship.

Derrell: I have an important question first, what do you do first: cereal or milk?

Ms. Sharpe: Cereal first, obviously. 

Derrell: What made you want to teach humanities?

Ms. Sharpe: When I was teaching music in Mississippi through Teachers for America, I realized that the literacy rate in general was so low in Mississippi. It made me think about how I can love my kids a lot, but I don’t know how much I love them if I’m not preparing with the most basic things like being able to read. So, I wanted to learn to do both. I had the opportunity to do that here at Brooke by teaching humanities. 

Ms. Sharpe: How has your perception of yourself as a learner changed since you came to Brooke?

Derrell: It changed once I came to your class. Your class pushed me to be more open minded, and gave me a different perspective of the world I didn’t have before.

Derrell: What are the hopes for your students in this class?

Ms. Sharpe: I hope that they actually take a really good look at themselves. These students are around each other so much, and end up falling into a label or a box their friends put them in. I want to make sure that they know themselves outside of their friends, and believe in who they are. 

Ms. Sharpe: What is your favorite thing about my class?

Derrell: The discussions are my favorite because everyone shares their ideas. In particular, there was the discussion we had about toxic masculinity. That conversation opened up the eyes of the class and myself, and pushed us to think outside what we thought it meant before. 

Ms. Sharpe: What is challenging about my class?

Derrell: Sometimes, it was challenging to understand the text from what we read and feeling powerless with no motivation. However, you always did your best to help motivate us during class. It made us feel like we could actually do something and feel that we do it well.

Ms. Sharpe: Did you like any of the books?

Derrell: Yes! Good Talk [by Mira Jacob], Ceremony [by Leslie Marmon Silko], and American Born Chinese [by Gene Luen Yang]

Derrell: What are you doing for the summer?

Ms. Sharpe: Oh, sleeping. Oh my gosh, I want all the sleep in America. I am going to go on a cruise, and am excited for that. I have to write the play, make plans for the musical, and get a headstart to do better next year!

Ms. Sharpe: What are you doing for the summer?

Derrell: Aside from working, I will be starting college football at Framingham State University as quarterback. 

To reflect on their Q&A session, we asked Ms. Sharpe and Derrell some closing questions. 


What was something that surprised you?

Sharpe: I’m glad our discussions have had an impact on you, Derrell. I’m surprised to hear you remembered the topics, and that you are still thinking about it. It’s great!

Derrell: Based on how nice Ms. Sharpe is and how considerate she is about her students, I don’t think anything surprised me. 

What is something you appreciate about each other?

Derrell: Ms. Sharpe talks a lot about putting our best foot forward and believing in ourselves. I really appreciate that. 

Ms. Sharpe: Derrell is a sweetheart. He is understanding, and always there to help and support me. Derrell sees me as a full human being, and not just a teacher. Super proud of that!