Since starting at Phillips High School five years ago, 10th - 12th grade English and Language Arts teacher Chris Farris has believed in his school. From introducing Dual Enrollment English Composition classes through the University of North Alabama to serving on the ACAP Standard Cut Score Committee.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say Farris’ grandmother, a former English teacher, inspired his current profession, but when he was younger, he had no dreams of becoming a teacher.
“I wanted to be a Jedi Knight,” he said.
Today, he’s living out his love for theater and the arts with his students. Along with his roles as assistant football and head baseball coach, he also co-leads the art program, which received a grant for the second straight year from the American Theater Guild, which allows his students to experience Broadway in Birmingham productions.
“This is an opportunity that would not be available for most Title I schools,” he said.
Inside the Classroom
What is your favorite subject/unit to teach?
Theater because I get to see my students come out of their shells.
What’s the most important purpose a teacher performs?
Making a student feel safe. If a student feels safe, they trust you. If they trust you, they are open to the learning experience.
What part of your job do you wish you’d known earlier?
How much I get in return through my students’ success.
What’s your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is my students. I love seeing their growth over the course of a school year. I love working with families and colleagues to meet the needs of students.
Tell us about one of your most challenging projects or experiences.
Four years ago my principal asked me and another teacher to start a theater class. We started from nothing. Now we perform two plays a year, have a school newscast, and an art club.
Tell us about a time when you helped a student overcome a problem.
We are in an economically deprived area where our students have housing and food insecurities. Overcoming problems is a daily routine.
How do you manage parent and/or administrator expectations?
Communication is the key to managing expectations. I believe in 100% transparency.
What advice would you share with people who are interested in becoming teachers?
You will never know how many lives you can impact with kindness.
What advice would you give a first-year teacher?
Always be flexible! Many days you have to adapt to the situation.