Interviewer: I’m Becca Merkle and I have been teaching here for eight years, this is my eighth year. I teach two senior classes, Apologetics, Brit Lit, two junior classes, Classical Lit, Classical History, one sophomore Rhetoric class. I’ve spent most of my life at [Low Goss 00:00:19] because I went K-12 here myself. Then I have five kids who have all gone through here. Our oldest just graduated last year so I have one graduate, I have three [00:00:30] in high school, and one in junior high. Basically I live at Logos.
Interviewer: You’re sweet spot.
Becca Merkle: Yeah I love it. I really love it.
Two of the classes I’ve been doing for all eight years.
Interviewer: Which two? So…
Becca Merkle: Brit Lit and Classical Lit. I started just with those two and then it moved from part-time to full-time. So now I’m doing the others but they’re great, it’s really fun. It’s very much in my sweet spot.
Interviewer: Tangents in the gold [crosstalk 00:00:59].
Becca Merkle: Oh [00:01:00] yeah, yeah.
Becca Merkle: I love the tangents because the thing that’s so great is the students always feel like it’s a win because they feel like they’ve gotten me off topic so I just don’t tell them that’s that’s where all the good stuff is. It’s like that’s where they are interested because they feel like we’ve gotten off so those are valuable moments when you can get into the weeds a little bit.
But that’s the one thing about classical education is we’re trying to make them integrate. I do tell them [00:01:30] if we’re talking about doctrine in history class that’s a win, that’s exactly what we’re trying to get you to be able to do because to be able to connect the dots … If we’re talking about math theory and we’re supposed to be in history yeah I do need to get us back onto history but this is actually the whole point is to get them to be able to connect things. So they’ll come all roaring in from a debate in Doctrine class and want to know what I think about it. I think that’s great. That’s exactly what we should be doing.
As a [00:02:00] graduate I think the thing that is a little bit different about the classical approach is that it’s about teaching skills not just teaching facts because the facts everybody’s going to forget anyway. I don’t even know what books I read in ninth grade, much less be able to tell you who wrote it and what year he was born. Worst case scenario, if I ever need to know that I can look it up and find out. It’s not like we teach [00:02:30] this students about the Wars of the Roses because sometime when there’re 35 they might have to face a pop quiz about the Wars of the Roses. It’s not about that. A lot of times if we’re just focused on the material we’re not teaching to the skill, we’re just trying to cram them full of facts and then those are going to disappear. But the skills that I learned in ninth grade lit class, even though I might have forgotten what books they ever read, I learned the skills of how to read a book, how to engage with a story, how to parse it. [00:03:00] Then I’ve used those skills every time I’ve watched a movie or read a book ever since. I think that’s the whole point of the classical model is you’re trying to teach skills that will go with the students even after the material has … Hopefully some of it they will remember. That would be ideal.
Interviewer: [inaudible 00:03:21].
Becca Merkle: But most of those things really aren’t nearly as important as the way that their mind is being shaped and how they’re being trained to think and engage [00:03:30] with the world around them. Hopefully they’re going to take that with them after graduation even after the forget the periodic table or whatever.
It’s probably more like 75 because I teach repeat classes since I have 2 senior classes. It’s the same group twice. So probably 75 different kids.
I think that I wrote the book because I was face to face with high school students all day every day, my own and then my students. My impression [00:04:00] was that everybody sells the parents on classical education. Everybody sells the teachers, and the admin, and everything, but the students are the ones that actually are having it done to them and everybody’s so busy giving them a classical education that they haven’t bothered to say why it matters or what the point is. And when the students ask it’s very easy to feel like that’s a bit threatening.
So if the students say, “Why do we have to learn this? What’s the point of this? When are we ever going to use this again in our life?” I felt [00:04:30] like those are questions the students really want to know the answer to because here they are having to learn it and put the work in. But it was like they haven’t been given compelling answers very often or they just are handed Dorothy Sayer’s essay to read. That’s not interesting to a high school student. You sell the parent’s on class ed one way but the students aren’t interested in that. They don’t want to talk about developmental phases and educational models, that’s not interesting to them. They [00:05:00] want to know what good is this going to do me. That’s kind of what I was trying to … I guess it just grew out of all the conversations that I have all the time anyway.
Interviewer: So they actually ask that?
Becca Merkle: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: They say, “Why do we…”
Becca Merkle: All the time, it’s like why do we have to read this book.
Interviewer: … Have to read this? Why [inaudible 00:05:13]?”
Becca Merkle: Why we have to read this, what good is this going to do, how is this ever going to affect us ever again, are we really going to have to know. All that kind of thing. I just felt like even the students who some of them ask it because they don’t really want to read the book or whatever, but some of them it’s a genuine question. [00:05:30] Even the students that really are sold on the vision still don’t really know what it’s about. It just felt like we have the conversation a lot in class so that’s why I decided somebody needs to write the book. Actually, I fussed about it for a while saying, “Somebody needs to write that book.” So finally I had to do it.
Interviewer: No one else…
Becca Merkle: It’s written to high school students so it’s very different than what you would give the admin or something.
Interviewer: Right. So it’s [00:06:00] really encouragement?
Becca Merkle: Yeah and also I think the other thing that’s important is if you value something write now you make more of it than if you learn to value it in retrospect. Then you wish you could go back and pay attention more. I hear that from graduates and it’s the cutest thing, it just kills me. They’ll come back and they’ll tell me as if this is going to be a real surprise. They’ll be like, “It turns out that it was so helpful the stuff that we learned in your class.” And I’m like, “Almost [00:06:30] as if that was the point.”
Interviewer: It’s amazing.
Becca Merkle: It’s like full break and they come back but they want to break this news to us like, “You’ll never believe it. It turns out that this is so helpful.”
Interviewer: Are they disappointed when you’re not shocked? When..,.
Becca Merkle: No, I’m always like, “Oh that’s great. That’s so cool.”
Interviewer: But you always … Because you want to keep that [crosstalk 00:06:52].
Becca Merkle: Yeah, yeah. But it is funny because if you had one day in Paris and you knew you were just going to have that one day you would really [00:07:00] make the most of it, and you would prep for it, and you would milk it for all it’s worth. If it was like, “Surprise, you get to go downtown,” you wouldn’t. I think if students could value what they’re getting I think they would actually get more out of the experience. Many of them notice right away when they graduate. Some of them notice five years down the road and then they really wish they could go back and have a re-do because I would have paid more attention. That’s why I think it’s helpful to sell them on it because if they [00:07:30] are convinced it’s valuable then I think they’ll experience it differently. So that’s why I wrote it.
Interviewer: … Is not look like.
Becca Merkle: I think the ideal graduate is a student who’s interested, somebody who was interested in the material but knows they haven’t mastered it. When I’m teaching Lit to high school students I do not expect that they’re going to get it at the level of a master’s class. What I want them to do is read it, [00:08:00] understand the gist of it, and be interested enough that they would want to revisit it again later, that they would fell like it was worth it. I think it’s a real disservice. If you shoot too high I think you kill it. If you’re trying to have the high school students experience it at too high of a level they’re going to be bored, they’re not going to get it, and they’re going to think they’ve done it. They’re going to think, “Oh I already learned that. It’s done.” I think the ideal student is one who’s interested and who’s [00:08:30] interested enough that they’re going to want to revisit the material later, not somebody who’s soured on everything because, “Oh, I already read it.” I guess that they see how much more there is to learn and they’re anxious to do it. I think that’s sort of the point of classical education too is to make students who want to learn, and who know how to learn, and who feel like it’s worth while to go out and keep going.
So students who are interested and engaged. That’s why I love the tangents because that’s [00:09:00] the whole point. The material’s important but more important than that is having students who want to know, and want to find out, and want to discuss, and want to debate, and want to link it to the stuff they’re doing somewhere else. When we’re doing that I feel like that’s exactly what we’re shooting for.
Yeah interest and curiosity I think. Then equipping them with skills so that they know how to go out and learn.
Interviewer: That’s awesome. [inaudible 00:09:30].
Becca Merkle: [00:09:30] Well I guess I overlooked once major point of the ideal student and that is obviously they’re not just interested in the academic side but they’re interested in the curriculum, everything that they’ve learned, which of course a huge part of that at Logos is the Biblical world view. So of course you want to graduate Christians who take their faith seriously and who are interested in pursuing that just as much as they would be interested in pursuing the other stuff.
If there’s one thing our country needs right now, [00:10:00] more than anything, it’s a generation of people who know what they think, why they think it, and who are able to … Well like the Men of … Was it Men of Issachar who understood the times and knew what they should do. Everything is so disjointed right now. Nobody knows what they think. Well, they know what they think, they don’t know why. Everything’s chaos. So having students who can think clearly, and who can tie it to scripture, who understand [00:10:30] a cohesive world view, they can answer questions clearly, they can articulate precisely, they can be winsome in how they try to influence others. I think honestly it’s equipping students who are going to rise to the top like cream and we need that right now.
Becca Merkle: I think students who are cynical, who actually want to turn it over and really examine it [00:11:00] before they’re just easily swayed. I think honestly now people can be swayed by a 30 second clip on Facebook. You want students who want to see more than that, that they want to say, “Show me the footnotes,” and defend that, and I’m going to push on it, and you show me somebody who can really ask the right questions, who reserves judgment isn’t easily swayed by whatever fad happens to be coming along.
Becca Merkle: I [00:11:30] think the thing that’s been really fun for me seeing my kids go through Logos is that I remember my parents and the sacrifices they made when I was in the Church of God, the old Church of God basement, and the mom’s were the janitors. They rotated in the afternoons and the teachers weren’t getting paid. It was like there was a pantry with canned food that people could donate. When the teachers didn’t have food they could go pull it … It was a lot [00:12:00] of sacrifices. Mom’s that were driving the bus and just making it work. We got this building and it seemed huge and it seemed very posh. Now of course it doesn’t so much. But I think the thing that has been really fun is seeing the graduates who went through Logos and who saw their parents sacrifice, who aren’t ready to just say, “Okay great, now we can coast on what our parents did,” but they want to…
There’s my phone ringing. Sorry.
[00:12:30] They don’t want to coast on what our parents did but they want to actually step it up, stand on their shoulders, and sacrifice for their children. The hope is that they will step up and do the same. So not wanting it to just be a lovely new home for Logos so that then we can just be done and coast forever, but hopefully we will be giving something to the next generation that they can capitalize on and do more with themselves. I think that’s the [00:13:00] fun thing of just seeing it snowball a little bit but without changing the vision.
The school is the same school I went through. My kids got the same education I did except so much better. I was used to hearing my parents say, “We’re working to give our kids an education that we didn’t receive,” and I think we can actually say the same for our kids. I did go through Logos, it was a huge blessing, but what my kids are getting is so much better. [00:13:30] At the same time, it’s the same school, it’s the same vision, it’s going the same direction it’s just doing it better because they’ve been practicing for longer. So I think the new building is going to be a great way of giving our kids something that they can then turn and make a profit on.
Interviewer: Beautiful, and so…
Becca Merkle: I was the first one to go K-12 at Logos. There were other graduates first but it was one other girl and I were the first two to go through, so our class started the kindergarten [00:14:00] year. Knox, we did two complete laps, so he went K-12 as well which is really fun.
Well I think when you’re talking about investing essentially in souls you are investing in something that is going to live forever, something that’s eternal. We’re told not to “lay up our treasure where moth and rust destroy”, that’s not where we’re supposed to put all of our focus and effort but all these students, what better investment [00:14:30] is there? These are eternal souls, they are going to live forever and it’s worth every bit of the sacrifice.
I don’t know, is that what you want?
Interviewer: That’s perfect.
Becca Merkle: Well the kids are hilarious. I really enjoy coming in, they’re just a bunch of characters and it’s kind of a full rodeo really every day. But they are just a lot of fun. It’s fun to be around them, they’re a party all the time. They really are interested, and engaged, and [00:15:00] funny, and rambunctious, and you never know what’s going to happen.
Interviewer: How do you prep for rodeo?
Becca Merkle: Exactly, exactly. You just always … The thing about it is you always have to win. You just can’t ever let them throw you. That is very important.
Interviewer: I love…
Becca Merkle: I just hope that we’ll be getting even better and I think better at what we do. That’s been the great thing about working at Logos is they’re constantly [00:15:30] trying to improve. They’re never settled in this is just what we do, this is how we do it, don’t change. It’s constantly trying to tweak it, and get better, and what can we do, and reexamining it, and let’s go back and just look at this curriculum again, is this really the best thing we could be doing. I think if they keep on with that they’re going to get even more effective at what they’re doing. I hope that 50 years from now when the paint might be peeling a little bit that that part won’t matter because they’ll be [00:16:00] so much better at what they’re trying to do which is the education.