Dina Marks, Macbeth enthusiast, mother of two and Ensworth High School English teacher. Check out what she had to say when the Ensworth Grind caught up with her.
Tell us a little about what brought you to Ensworth and how long you have been teaching English?
This is my seventh year teaching English, and my fifth at Ensworth. I was initially drawn to Ensworth because I liked the idea of students actively engaged in the search for truth. And then, I watched a Harkness discussion in action and was hooked. What I love about our program is that students are “allowed” to take their time with a text and read slowly, for meaning, rather than quickly for plot points. In English, students searching for truth means employing close reading strategies and asking questions of the text and of each other, and I appreciate being at a place where the process of searching for truth is valued over listening quietly while someone tells it to you.
What is your favorite genre of literature or even your favorite unit to teach the students?
That’s a tough one. We choose novels, plays, and poems that simultaneously engage the reluctant reader while challenging the honors student. It looks different in ninth grade World Studies classes than it does in the upper-level electives, but regardless of student age or skill level, the best works ultimately make them think about and question the world around them, the nature of truth, and what it means to be human. In the 9th grade, my favorite work that we teach is Macbeth; in the span of two months students go from being intimidated and put off by the language to reading around the table confidently. My favorite upper-level elective to teach is Arthurian Legend; reading and discussing Le Morte D’Arthur or The Once and Future King is a fabulous way to spend an afternoon, and I love that the class draws students who share my fascination with the stories of King Arthur.
I know you are a mother to two children. How do you think that has affected your teaching style? Has it changed the way you view your students?
I’d like to say that it makes me more patient, but I don’t think that’s true. I think instead that being a teacher changes the way that I parent. Working with teenagers reminds me that students are in school to learn, not to prove that they already know everything. When a freshman is disappointed in his grade on an essay, it’s easy to sit down with him and remind him that he’s still working on mastering his formal writing skills. When my oldest daughter Miranda comes home from school with a 75 on a spelling test that I know she studied for, it’s becoming easier to picture that same disappointed freshman and then to tell Miranda that one grade doesn’t define her as a student. I want to raise her to be a student who focuses on learning rather than the number grade attached to that learning, and teaching teenagers helps me to keep my eye on her schooling as a whole rather than on a collection of missed points on assignments.
When you are not at Ensworth what are your favorite hobbies or activities or what steals most of your free time?
Again, I’d like to say that I’m an adventurous, outgoing person who spends my free time doing exciting things, but I’m not. I spend my time away from school with my two young daughters and my husband doing everyday things like playing games, reading bedtime stories, going to the zoo, and napping on the couch while watching endless hours of Nick Jr. cartoons. Miranda and I have just begun to read the Harry Potter books together at night; we’ve finished Book 1 and are furiously working through Book 2. My youngest daughter Julia is about to turn 3, and I’ve been enjoying watching her plant gardens with her father (though I don’t much enjoy partaking in the planting itself). I love to read and cook, and I’m learning how to play the guitar.
Who is one faculty member at the Red Gables campus that you would like to see profiled next?