What Makes Them Tick?: Dr. Lawrence


Image source: Edmund Tijerina

Recently, on March 30th, I conducted an interview with Keystone’s very own Dr. Lawrence. He is a beloved upper school English teacher, but not many know things about his past or his interests. So I asked questions many wouldn’t ask him, and recorded the responses. I present the following interview as a means to learn more about our teachers, this is-

What Makes Them Tick?: Dr. Lawrence 

Academic Based Questions: 

Q: What are your thoughts/policy on grades? Do you think they are necessary or beneficial to students and the education system? 

A: “So like many teachers, if it were up to me I wouldn’t have grades because I feel like in a lot of cases conversations with students- it all ends up being about the grade rather than the material. Frankly a lot of times it’s what can I do to improve my grade on this, so then the conversation becomes less about developing skills as a writer and instead what are the boxes I need to check (to make a good grade)? I feel like it creates stress for people and ends up diverting conversations from what really matters, but all that being said—I do understand that grades can be necessary—and even just for parents who want to understand how successful their children are… .”


As Dr. Lawrence puts it, grades can be damaging and helpful, depending on the situation. He would rather have a conversation about the material and how someone as a writer or student can become better, rather than focus on how to just make better grades. This idea can help us as students remember that we shouldn’t stress too much about grades, but rather on how we can improve overall and keep in mind teachers are not out to get us. While we shouldn’t overstress ourselves about grades we have to remember how the education system works; it is based on grades- whether or not they reflect the person’s understanding of concepts. The system doesn’t take into account testing anxiety or “off days.” Dr. Lawrence brings up the fact that if someone were to revise the system he would gladly get rid of grades and would not “shed any tears over grades going away.” 


Q: How would you describe your college experience? Any advice for those who will be going to college next year or thinking of attending college in the future? 

A: “My undergraduate was at the University of Texas Austin- which is a huge, huge place. I think no matter where you go to school, one of the most important things to remember is to find your people and your community. Meet all kinds of people, but also find smaller communities you can be a part of.” 


Whether it be an academic, athletic, or extracurricular activity, you should find a group of people to spend time with while in college. Lawrence says that you shouldn’t be pent up in your room just studying and isolating, but to find some people to be with. Finding these groups will allow you to be a better person and student. You grow from experience—with the best experience coming from the world around you and interactions with it. He says that some people will bring out the best or worst in you, and make you learn things about yourself you never knew. 


Q: Any stories of your college experience you would like to share? 

A: “Don’t ever do this, but one of the only times I got into legal trouble was when I entered a speech contest and made it to the state huddle in Arlington…We were staying at a hotel there and I was a Texas Rangers fan and so were some other people…The Rangers weren’t playing that night but we were walking distance from the stadium…so we decided it would be awfully fun to go and be at Rangers stadium. We snuck in and the irony is the speeches that year were about responsibility and there we were and the security guard did catch us, but we were all speech kids and were able to talk our way out of it. It was fine, but we could’ve been in legal trouble.” 

This is an example of having fun with your buddies, and to preface, Dr. Lawrence is not supporting illegal activity (as he states many times while telling this story to me). He says the gate was open so they just walked in, but the moral is that he was with a group of people and had a thrilling experience that has stuck with him. Now for those speech and debate kids out there—you do hold some power in your words (not that you should get into legal trouble to see if you can get out of it) and could possibly use that to your advantage. Lawrence likes having safe but memorable moments with people, such as when he took us slightly off trail on the sophomore trip to Tennessee. One group of sophomores, myself included, hiked with the man, the myth, the legend, and had to climb over some giant tree branches while on the Indian House trail. We did not see the Indian House, but we did get to climb up a hill and trek over mud, which was very enjoyable. This slight diversion off the trail led to me having dirt on my hiking pants in a certain area, which created a hilarious photo our grade laughed at, so thank you Bestie Lawrence for making our trip even more enjoyable! Your card tricks were so amazing.) 


Q: How long have you been teaching at Keystone? 

A: “This is my third year.” 


Q: What is one book you would recommend to read right now and why? 

A: “The Known World, and that was really fascinating. It was written by Edward Jones and it a fictional account of a family of African-Americans who then owned slaves. It sort of disrupts the way we often think about that time period, it was sort of pre-Civil War and again Edward Jones does a masterful job of fictionalizing something and yet asking questions about a lot of relevance. It was really a challenging book and I really recommend that. And on a personal level, Tim O’Brien has a book called Dad’s Maybe Book (some of you may not enjoy it since it’s about being a father) and I really enjoyed that. 


Speed Round Questions:

Q: Favorite Color? 

A: Blue.


Q: Favorite Food?

A: Beef Fajitas.


Q: Favorite TV/Movie as of now?

A: Probably the Lord of the Rings trilogy for movie and Breaking Bad or Lost for TV show.  


Q: Favorite Book?

A: Currently, I’m going to say Just Mercy, which you (sophomores) will all read next year. When I first read it, it had a significant personal impact on me. I read it on a personal level and then I didn’t think about it for a while and then I started thinking about books that would be appropriate for the curriculum- BOOM- Why hadn’t I thought about teaching this book before? It fits in so well with what the Junior year is about so it’s turned out to be a good book to have in class. 


Q: Favorite hobby?

A: Fishing. 


Q: Favorite word?

A: Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. (https://youtu.be/LwTr0rXSpj4) 


Q: Favorite Mark of Punctuation? (Credits to Mrs. Hall for the Question)

A: Dash. 


Q: Favorite Animal?
A: Cats.

I had a fantastic time interviewing Dr. Lawrence and I hope you enjoyed the interview as well. Truly a bestie of besties, this concludes my interview with Dr. Brian “Bestie” Lawrence for the Keystone Keynote