What do historical wars and fantasy have to do with each other? As far as Moorestown High School English teacher Lewis Lazarow is concerned, a lot more than one would think.
Lazarow created the War and the Fantastic class, which combines literature about wars in history and fantastical war literature.
“The kids like reading both of them. Talking about them back and forth, conversation style, we make connections between the books,” Lazarow said.
Lazarow, a Marlton resident, and his War and the Fantastic class will be featured on NJEA’s “Classroom Close-up, NJ,” modeling a poetry lesson. The segment will air on Sunday, Dec. 28 at 7:30 a.m. on NJTV.
According to NJTV, “Classroom Close-up, NJ” is a magazine program focusing on innovative education in New Jersey’s public schools. The series features the students, teachers and communities who create and participate in successful school projects and events.
Lazarow was originally asked to be on the series by the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, an event for teachers and students to visit poets throughout the country. Many of the poets are war veterans, poets with physical disabilities and more. Dodge Poetry Festival hosts days for teachers as well as students and allows them to go to panels to speak and ask questions to various poets.
“It is a remarkable experience. There is nothing like it. Ever since I first went to the festival, every two years it comes around and it is something to look forward to, to bring students and experience it as a teacher as well,” Lazarow said.
The Dodge Poetry Festival told him how “Classroom Close-up, NJ” was doing a segment about a teacher’s experience at the festival and asked if he would be interested, since he had been going since 1998. Of course, Lazarow agreed.
It started off with cameras following Lazarow around the festival and then ended with a 10-minute interview about his experiences at the festival. Then, Lazarow received an email from “Classroom Close-up, NJ,” saying it wanted to take this full circle and see how Lazarow has brought his experiences at the festival to his classroom.
Having war poets such as Brian Turner and Yusef Komunyakaa, what better class to bring what he had taken from the festival to than the War and the Fantastic literature class?
“It was an easy fit to take my experiences from Dodge,” Lazarow said.
On Oct. 30, NJEA’s “Classroom Close-up, NJ” came to Moorestown High School to film a conversation Lazarow had with his students. Lazarow chose poems from Turner and Komunyakaa as well as a few others to have a discussion about the poems and warrior writers. The conversation included responses, reactions and feelings about the poems and the writers’ experiences.
Lazarow said it felt weird being on camera, and he personally felt a little more self-conscious. Although he is used to being in front of a crowd of students, knowing he is being filmed was a little nerve-wracking. But Lazarow admitted that, in the end, it was fine and he “did whatever it is I usually do.”
“My favorite part was always my favorite part: listening to the students. So much of my philosophy, even though I am the educational leader of the room, it is about their willingness to be a participant. What they say and get from it is what I love that they do. Looking at the material, saying, ‘this is what I saw’ or ‘this is a question that I had.’ I’m glad that people will see my favorite part, hearing them offer their thoughts. I would’ve been completely happy if they just filmed the students,” Lazarow said.
Although Lazarow expressed a bit of hesitance about being on camera, he seemed happy to have the opportunity for his class and students be featured. He also expressed his love of teaching his students as well as his thanks to the school, allowing him much opportunity in regard to his class.
“I love what I do. I love the fact that I have the opportunity to work with the kids I work with. I love the fact that I work in a place that was willing to take the chance to do a war and fantasy class. I don’t know that everyone would give a class like that a chance at the high school level. And here was Moorestown saying let’s give it the full support and encourage kids to sign up for the class. That is the progressive attitude that keeps kids wanting to learn more, that they can apply that knowledge to other things, and that means a lot,” Lazarow said.
Lazarow and his War and the Fantastic class can be seen on Sunday, Dec. 28 at 7:30 a.m. on NJTV. Be sure to check your local listings for the channel number.