WE SIT DOWN WITH MIDDLE SCHOOL ENGLISH TEACHER RIVES FLEMING
RIVES FLEMING ’83 HAS TAUGHT MIDDLE SCHOOL AT COLLEGIATE FOR 29 YEARS.
His Collegiate roots run deep, as his mother, Mary Pease Fleming, taught at the Town School. “That’s where the connection started,” he said. His birth announcement also appeared in The Match as he was the fifth child in a family of girls. “There were four girls already ahead of me at Collegiate, so I was brought in for Show and Tell,” he said. Mr. Fleming talks about teaching Middle Schoolers, what makes him proudest and how much he enjoys a good Brunch, the annual performance that 11th Grade girls stage to honor the senior girls.
WHAT MAKES TEACHING AT COLLEGIATE SO SPECIAL?
The thing that stands out to me about Collegiate is the community, the people here and the way we look out for each other. The vibrancy of the people who work here and go to school here brings a real dynamic energy that makes it exciting. There are just so many great ideas and so many motivated, passionate people. It’s not just the teachers. It’s the students, too. You’ve got great kids here doing great things. And I love the independent school model, at least the Collegiate model. It’s not just academics. It’s a whole person experience and Collegiate always stresses character as No. 1.
WHAT IS YOUR TEACHING PHILOSOPHY?
Every year on Parents’ Night I say, “Here’s my teaching philosophy.” My teaching philosophy is I think kids get better at things by doing them rather than me talking about them. And then I think it’s got to be a little bit fun. Kids have to be engaged and it has to be fun for them. Those are the two things I always try to use in my teaching.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE COLLEGIATE TRADITION?
As a girls’ basketball coach, one of the big traditions I always find to be the most fun is Brunch. As a male faculty member, that’s honestly my favorite because the girls get to turn it loose. I love to see kids when they are as unfiltered as they can be but they are not doing anything bad. They are just having a lot of fun and being successful. It’s great when they are in charge. And I think Brunch is when they are the most in charge.
HOW HAS COLLEGIATE CHANGED DURING YOUR TENURE?
I think Collegiate is really good at trying to stay ahead of the curve so we keep our edge and keep ourselves being a successful school, a great school. I think we’ve done a nice job of getting bigger. I’m not sure what the numbers were when I was in Kindergarten or when I was first teaching here, compared to what they are now, but it’s obviously a much bigger place. I think we do a good job of balancing that out.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE YOUR STUDENTS TAKE WITH THEM WHEN THEY LEAVE YOUR CLASSROOM?
Hopefully, they are better prepared to handle what’s coming in their life, be it 6th Grade math or whatever it is. I don’t love the word empowerment. It’s so trendy. Independence might be a slightly different take on it.
WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
When I see the kids come back. That’s a proud moment. As a 5th Grade teacher, it is harder to feel as though I am part of the finished product. That is more of an Upper School thing because they’re closer to becoming adults. But I feel like I didn’t mess them up. I’m part of a chain that’s keeping them in a good direction, building them into what they are. Occasionally, you have those kids for whom you really make a difference. When I’m teaching and I see kids’ academic breakthroughs or that they are excited about things and I see them leave my class with confidence that they didn’t have before, that feels really good. You know it’s been a great experience for them and that to me is what we’re here to do: Help them and and make it a great experience for them.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT COLLEGIATE?
The people and what we’re about. To me it would be hard to work somewhere if you didn’t totally believe in what it’s about. I’ve lived it as a former Collegiate student, which hopefully broadcasts to the people I’m teaching. It’s just great to get out there and connect with people.