Wake up. Go to school. Sit through six classes. Go home. Every part of every school day is, for the most part, predictable. Except one person.
It’s hard to put Mr. Jensen into words, as I truly don’t think I’ve met anybody with a comparable personality. And not only does he let his own personality come through, but he ensures that his class is somewhere students can do the same.
“A lot of kids don’t wanna be here necessarily, but I try not to take that personally. You know, you’re here for fifty-seven minutes. You have to be here. Let’s enjoy the time. But if it feels safe, like you can be yourself … that’s the kind of classroom I want.”
Mr. Jensen is someone who goes out of his way to make kids laugh (and not in an awkward teacher way). He’s actually funny in a way that makes his students look forward to class.
“I am more casual in class … I hope that people enjoy being in here because I add humor or insights, but I also hope that kids are getting something out of it.”
That’s the reason his class is so enjoyable. It’s not overly relaxed, but he acknowledges that there’s life outside of the classroom.
“Life happens while we’re teaching and I never want this to be a place where those things are not talked about.”
Because of the subjects he teaches (history and sociology), we discuss many controversial issues. Especially as juniors and seniors, we talk about more mature topics. And with a good teacher, this can be very valuable.
“The classroom isn’t my forum … I like talking politics with my friends, with my colleagues, and with my classes, but it’s not a place for me to interject my own personal thoughts. What I do try to do is get students to examine their own thinking, examine their own sources.”
It’s fun to have engaging classes like this. I know I can trust what Mr. Jensen says and that he respects our opinions as people. He doesn’t sugar-coat or shy away from anything.
“With everything that’s going on, it’s very easy to let your personal feelings come through about what’s going on in the country and in the world. But I feel confident in the fact that if I’m sticking to a very common idea of what is right – go with justice, go with human rights, go with kindness – I’m not steering anybody in the wrong direction.”
He says the most rewarding part of teaching is not just seeing kids get good grades. It’s helping his students grow and look at the world in new ways.
“You don’t always get to see the results of your work in teaching. I can assign something and a kid will give it to me and I’ll grade it, but in terms of helping somebody mature, helping somebody look at the world in a different way – a more adult way, you don’t always get to see that. So when it does come through, that’s rewarding.”
He appreciates the fact that he can give students a new perspective on life.
“For me, I feel like I can give them something here that maybe they’re not getting from the TV or social media or at home or from a church or something. I can give them a political, social context for what’s happening.”
He hopes to make a difference in students’ lives by making each day a little more interesting.
“I hope I’m somebody who brings a challenge to kids and lets them see a broader world. And I hope I’m somebody who comes in and is prepared and energetic and ready to give kids something new each day.”
It’s so important to have teachers who genuinely care about the role they play in students’ lives. I’ve had Mr. Jensen for four years – two as a coach and two as a teacher – and he’s definitely one of the most passionate and genuine educators I’ve met.
“Care about what you’re doing and what it means to the students … teachers need to care about kids as people.”
I’ve been lucky enough to have so many amazing, dedicated teachers during my years as a student. But I’ve never had a teacher as interesting and entertaining as Mr. Jensen is. It’s impossible not to be engaged during his class.
Some classes are bland and straightforward, and that’s okay. Some people feel that that’s all school should be. But I can say firsthand that teachers like Mr. Jensen are the ones that make kids look forward to school – or at least not dread it. Teachers like Mr. Jensen make rolling out of bed at six-thirty in the morning a little bit easier.