“Clueless was weird.”
“What? No, it wasn’t.”
“Josh was Cher’s stepbrother. That’s weird.”
“Yeah, but their parents divorced a long time ago. They’re not related.”
“He lived in the same house.”
“B-b-but it’s Paul Rudd!”
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to college prep, taught by Mr. Daniel Quinlan: ‘”One Tree Hill” lover, “Clueless” hater, and hoarder of oversized sweaters.
When I first walked into Quinlan’s eighth period college prep class during first semester, I assumed I had it all figured out: we were going to read a couple of books by some old dudes, write essays, work on a college essay or two, and then it was “okay, bye.” It was supposed to be like any other English class, but as the days went on by, it just became something more.
I don’t know how that change happened — it wasn’t a big revelation that came after one specific day in class. It came quietly in the days we complained about how whiny Hamlet was, watched Rosencrantz and Guildenstern question their existence, our arguments about the perfection that is “Clueless.”
It was never a class that required you to simply come in, do the work, and leave. Quinlan would engage his students in debates and philosophical discussions that left us raising our eyebrows. When he’d talk, his voice would boom in the class, making us jump out of our seats. We’d watch movies after reading our books and talk about the really cheap green screens. I never felt confined to a schedule. I never felt I didn’t have a voice. Quinlan would never stop us from asking questions, engaging in discussions in the middle of class about the characters, or talking about the absurdity of “No Exit.”
Some days we’d read about Oedipus with the class gagging at that fact that he was married to his mother and erupting in shudders once we discovered he had children with her. Other days, he would steal my veggie straws and we’d listen to him read “Grendel” out loud, his voice changing for every character and making us fall in love with the creature that had seemed like a monster in “Beowulf.” Of course, it wouldn’t be Quinlan if he didn’t play Rebecca Black’s infamous song “Friday”… every single Friday.
But one of the best things about Quinlan isn’t just the fact that he’s a great teacher, it’s that he’s also a great friend. He has the ability to see students as more than just students and actually understands them. He never made us feel bad for asking ridiculous questions but humored us. Quinlan listened.
On the last day of the first semester, as I walked out of the college prep for the last time, I remember turning to my best friend, saying, ‘Wow, this feels weird.’ It was weird, not being locked out of the classroom for going to the bathroom until Quinlan noticed you were standing by the door. It was weird not sitting next to his desk and staring at the tiny wizard on his computer. It was weird not getting to see my classmates struggle with closing or opening the blinds during movies or the purposely weird ways that Quinlan would spell out our names.
Thank you, Quinlan, for making my final English class at West worth it. Thank you for encouraging us to be better writers and allowing us to be creative. Thank you for listening to us, and for getting off topic with us. Thank you for the books you’ve read to us, movies you’ve shown us, and the lessons you’ve taught us. Thank you.