By Hallie Zolkower-Kutz
The theater is chilly and dark. The first two rows are crammed with overeager, nervous sophomores still filled with first-day-of-school excitement. One man who seems to fill the room with his authority occupies the stage. He stares at his students. He says,
“This is not going to be like any class you’ve ever taken.”
Twenty-five pairs of eyes stare back at him. One of those is mine, and although I didn’t know it at the time, he would be absolutely correct.
This man was Matthew Boswell aka Boswell, Mr. Boswell or, more familiarly, Bos. He is tall, bespectacled and always dressed to the nines, giving off a “you had better take me seriously” aura. He is unlike any teacher I had in high school. I enjoyed his first theater class so much in fact that I signed up for one of his classes every year just to have him as a teacher, and I can confidently say that he is my radical. Mr. Boswell is the only teacher I had in high school who I felt was real. Let me explain…
While most teachers followed the curriculum blindly, Boswell put thought into every assignment, challenging his students in new ways with each one. He wasn’t afraid to experiment with his lessons, always asking us for feedback, really listening to what we said. He was critical but fair, didn’t give out “gold stars” or distribute undeserved praise like most of my teachers. This made any compliment from him worth twice what I heard from others. In my junior year I took his humanities class where, on the first day of school, he told us that this was not a “joke” class or a throwaway elective and we had better be ready to work. He seemed unconcerned when a third of the class was gone the next day. Boswell is not afraid to tell it like it is, a trait that is refreshing after classes with teachers who seem determined to sugarcoat things.
Boswell believes in his students, something he showed by being confident we could complete his challenging assignments. He was unfazed by the looks of horror he received when he passed out copies of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” because he knew, with his guidance, we would all get through it.
Despite his seriousness, Bos has an incredible sense of humor and was never afraid to tell a joke or make a sarcastic comment. Once you earned his respect, it felt like you were part of a secret group with whom he could joke. It was a great feeling to be respected by a teacher enough to participate in his witty rapport. He is my radical because he made me feel as though my thoughts and opinions mattered. Matthew Boswell gave me an experience that I believe all teachers should strive to create. Most importantly, his goal was to get his students to enjoy learning. In my case, he succeeded.