Do you like to read, do escape rooms, hike mountains, play trivia, memorize poetry, travel, or go to museums? If you do, you’ll want to talk to Ms. MacLeod. On May 6, 8th-grade Team Bartlett English Teacher at Hollis Brookline Middle School, Jennifer MacLeod, was questioned over video-conference platform, Zoom, by CavChron staff writer, Rory Klauber, about how her quarantine was going and what she is looking forward to after the pandemic.
CavChron: How many years have you been teaching and how many at HB?
Ms. MacLeod: I have been a teacher for seven years now and have been lucky to have worked only at HB.
Do you like Remote Learning?
I don’t like remote learning because one of the best things about my job, as an English Teacher, is having literature discussions with my class. I love hearing what everyone is thinking about the reading and bouncing ideas off each other. Even though we have been trying to do that with Zoom calls, it is just not the same. Zoom is a good substitute for this short term period, but it is definitely not the same as being in a class of kids. For that reason, I really don’t like it, plus my eyes are killing me from so much time online.
What do you like to do in your free time?
To get away from my computer and get some exercise, I have been going for late afternoon walks of about five miles a day, which is pretty great. (Nerd confession– I memorize poems while taking walks and have memorized ten new poems so far). Many of my students know I also love to travel, but that’s been halted, obviously. I’m trying not to dwell on missing my April vacation in Paris and living for a month in England this summer.
Do you have any good books you have read recently that you would recommend?
I read a really good book called Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. It is a funny yet tragic story and a quick, engaging read. The narrator is Leonard Peacock, a teenager who wakes up on his birthday and makes a very dramatic decision. (There’s a hero-teacher character, which I always like to see.) Right now I am reading Mudbound by Hillary Jordan, which is also a two-hour feature film on Netflix. It takes place in Mississippi during the Jim Crow era and is loaded with conflict and character development. That is an excellent book as well so I would recommend that one too.
Have you seen the MudBound on Netflix?
I did. Unfortunately, I saw the movie on Netflix and then realized it was a book. I usually like to read the book first, but in this case, I am reading the book second.
Do you have any hobbies or things you like to do that are closed right now?
Yes, I love, love, love escape rooms and I have really missed those. I have also enjoyed going to Trivia night at a local restaurant every week, but I haven’t been able to go since February. I am missing that as well. Another thing was that I was supposed to go to Paris for April vacation and live in England this summer, so I am still a little bitter about that (laughs).
How many NH 4-thousand footers have you climbed and how many do you have left? Do you plan to finish them this year?
I have done 44 out of the 48 and the four left are all on one loop which is a 21-mile loop. I am hoping to get back out there as soon as the trails open back up again. My birthday is in June and I had planned to do it this year for my birthday. I don’t know if I will be able to, but I am hoping that at least I will be able to do it by the end of summer.
What do you miss the most during this quarantine?
I think it is just seeing a variety of people, whether it is seeing all the kids at school, seeing my family, or seeing my friends. Just having to shrink your world view down so small is tough. I don’t miss shopping or any of those things because those were never my hobbies, but I do miss not being able to jump in the car to go for a hike, go to the beach, go to a museum, or an escape room.
What is your favorite day of the school year?
For me, there are three big highlights of the school year. The best is typically the day the 8th grade recites the Gettysburg Address on the Lincoln Memorial steps in Washington, D.C. I love that every single year, every group does such a good job, and it is just a highlight. This year, we missed that because we missed the whole D.C. trip. My second favorite day of the year is the day in April we celebrate National Poetry Month because I have my students recite any poem of their choosing. I love that day because it is so much fun to see which poems the kids have chosen and who rises to the challenge. Kids absolutely blow my doors off with their presentations and every year, there are standouts. My third favorite day of the year is actually the last day of school because we usually play review games to remember all the books we’ve read and literary concepts we’ve learned. I also like to do one last writing exercise with them where I make individual predictions for everyone’s future. I am 0 for 3 this year and I am really sad I am missing all of my favorite days of the school year.
So the first day of school is not on your list?
I like it, but what I really love is getting to know the kids. Getting to know them, by the end of the year or even the D.C. trip, I feel I have more of a connection with them. The first day of school is fun to meet everybody, but it is not my favorite day, per se, because everything is more fun once I have established a relationship with the kids.
If you were to switch professions, what would you choose instead of a teacher?
A pretty sweet job would be to be a travel writer because I love to travel and then write up reviews or itineraries. A close second would be being a museum docent or some type of attractions guide because I like sharing knowledge with other people.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Yikes, I think being able to fly would be pretty cool and I would make very good use of that skill if I had it.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I have actually been thinking a lot about this lately, so that’s an easy one– New Zealand. It is a really cool country, strikingly beautiful; the environment there is gorgeous and people there care about taking care of it. They have a dynamite leader, Jacinta Ardern, and they really value education there. It really is a great spot.
If you could meet one person, alive or dead, who would it be?
When I was in 6th grade, I did a really elaborate report on Amelia Earhart. Ever since I was 12 years old, I have been interested in her story, how she was a pioneering woman of tremendous courage, and it has been such an ongoing unsolved mystery of what happened to her. I think I would have to say Amelia Earhart, but Abraham Lincoln and William Shakespeare are a close second.
Have you seen the TV show Expedition Unknown on Discovery Channel?
No, what is it about?
The host, Josh Gates who is a historian and archeologist, travels the world and does a show on the greatest mysteries to date. One of his episodes is titled Amelia Earhart Special and it is all about history and him trying to uncover the mystery of her disappearance. All of his episodes are a new mystery that he explores and he travels to remote places to try to find the truth behind the mystery. You should check it out and he also has some other parallel series that are fascinating as well.
I should, I will definitely look it up. That question that you just asked me about who I would like to meet, there are so many people like the heroes of the Holocaust, civil rights advocates, and people who have changed the world in different ways. It is really hard to pick one person I would like to meet when I look at it like that.
What is your all-time favorite book, holiday, movie, song, and band?
My favorite movie is easiest, so let’s start there. My favorite movie of all-time is Shakespeare in Love; it’s so cleverly done. My favorite band is probably Bruce Springsteen. Book is so hard but I will say A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith although there are many contenders for that role. Favorite Holiday…I do actually really love Thanksgiving, because it’s all about family. No gifts or materialism to get in the way. Favorite song is another tough one… “Clair de Lune” by Debussy if I’m in one mood, or “Racing in the Street” by Bruce Springsteen if I’m in another. Then again, the Psychedelic Furs and Jack Johnson also have some great material. I pretty much like all genres.
If you want a book, museum, hike, or escape room recommendation, stop by HBMS Room 9 in the fall or send Ms. MacLeod an email.