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Points of brilliance from English 9, English B

As this state has wrestled with the “war on education” this summer, I have thought about the war for education. The war that takes place each and everyday in our classrooms to make sure that our students learn.

Teaching standard courses on the high school level is always a challenge. Students come to the table with rough backgrounds, lapses in learning, gaps in knowledge, and sometimes years behind. Success takes many forms in these courses in which meeting the diverse needs of struggling learners is a challenge. 

Success isn’t in the form of perfect grammar or reading test scores, but in self actualization, awareness, and confidence.

Points of brilliance.

As I closed out my first year of teaching and read through my final exam essays from English 9, I was astounded at the self-awareness of my students.

The students were prompted to “identify a mask, or stereotype, that you have discovered through our study of literature that applies to you. After identifying the mask that society defines you by, how has this mask come to define you? What is your true identity and how will you remove this mask?”

Below are excerpts in which students identify their masks and explain how they will discard the crutch of stereotypes to leap over the hurdles of society.

On being learning disabled

Disability #1


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On being a female



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On being a Hispanic female


MR Nate crop


Hispanic Female #2

On being an African-American male


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This poem seems a fitting way to honor the work of my students, especially since my students refer to me as Mr. B.

So will my page be colored that I write? 
Being me, it will not be white. 
But it will be 
a part of you, instructor. 
You are white — 
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you. 
That’s American. 
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me. 
Nor do I often want to be a part of you. 
But we are, that’s true! 
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me —
although you’re older — and white — 
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.

— Langston Hughes, Theme for English B

To my students, it has been my privilege to be your teacher. To my state, don’t lose sight of my students’ points of brilliance as you wrestle with the policy questions at hand.

Mr. B

George Barilich

George “Nate” Barilich is an English and film teacher at Enloe Magnet High School in Raleigh. He also serves as director of Enloe Charity Ball leading high school students in local philanthropy. He is a graduate of North Carolina State University, a North Carolina Teaching Fellow, and a member of the inaugural class of Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation Fellows. Nate currently serves as an Executive Fellow at EducationNC. Raised in Onslow County, Nate loves all things Eastern North Carolina: salt water, oysters, and vinegar BBQ.