Ron Morris shows a commitment to photography

The Newtonite

by Julia Oran

[media-credit name=”Jay Feinstein” align=”alignright” width=”300″]Jay Feinstein “This school has been a great place, and working with high school kids has been great. I love them all,” said photography teacher Ron Morris.[/media-credit]

“This school has been a great place, and working with high school kids has been great. I love them all,” said photography teacher Ron Morris.

“The first thing I noticed was that he had more pairs of shoes than I do,” said art teacher Shannon Slattery.
“He has really cool shoes, really cool watches and cool objects that he collects like clocks and cameras,” she said.
Slattery was talking about when she met photography teacher Ron Morris 14 years ago.
Morris admitted he has never been the typical high school teacher and would like to be remembered at this school as “being different.”
He said, “I’m afraid of adults,” so he always identified more with the students.
“I’ve been a teacher all my life, but I never thought in my wildest dreams I would want to teach a bunch of crazy high schoolers,” Morris said.
Growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, he attended Flaget High School, a Catholic school that closed shortly after he graduated in 1965.
He then attended the University of Louisville. Originally Morris said he wanted to be a college English teacher, but changed his mind while in college, and switched to photography.
He received a B.A. in art history and photography, and minored in French.
After graduating from college in 1970, Morris served two years in a hospital for conscientious objector service, instead of being drafted into the army, and became involved in politics, especially the anti-war movement against the Vietnam War.
Following that, he worked at various adult education centers in Boston and taught at a number of colleges including Massachusetts College of Art, Art Institute of Boston, Emerson College and an art center in Cambridge.
He also worked as a freelance photojournalist.
Then, in 1982, Morris received his master’s degree in photography from Massachusetts College of Art.
Morris was first hired at this school in 1985 after teaching for a semester at Brookline.
Morris said he thought this school was a good school and a great place to teach with a good darkroom and talented students.
Soon after, he was laid off because there was no longer a photography class, but then in 1992, he was rehired when the photography program was reinstated.
In the past twenty years, Morris has taught a few art minor classes, but he has mostly taught photography classes.
The second time he was hired, he said the previous teacher had been “easy and lax,” but Morris brought in a new attitude.
“I’m known as a mean teacher,” he said. He paused, laughed a little and added, “I’m just kind of joking.”
As Morris said this, the five or so students in 102 piped up and said he was not mean, but all agreed they had been frightened of him when they first started photography.
Senior Sam Schwamm commented, “He has no tolerance for people messing around.”
Morris agreed that was true and said an old saying among teachers was “don’t smile until Christmas.”
Morris continued to banter with his students as they shared their first impressions of him.
Even though students said they were initially scared of Morris, he said that he was terrified when he walked into the classroom on the first day of school.
“If you want to be really scared, stand in front of a bunch of high schoolers,” he said.
According to Fine and Performing Arts department head Todd Young, Morris has “an unwavering commitment to photography. It has, in a very real way, been his life and livelihood.”
Young added, “His ability to get students to not just talk about a photograph, but truly ‘think the photograph’ is fascinating.”
His students consistently produce college-level work and have in depth knowledge of both analog and digital photography.
Similarly senior Jackie Comstock said, “He speaks his mind. He makes sure that you don’t do a bland project and that everything is creative.”
Morris commented, “Most of my classes are my favorites,” but he said the students in majors are the most serious.
He added that he has had a number of really great students, some of whom he is still in touch with.
When asked about anecdotes from his classes, Morris responded, “Ones that I can tell? There are some I can tell my students, but not to the public.”
The ones that he could tell included that in the old building, the photo room used to flood quite frequently, leaving a stain on the overhand entrance to the building. He also said that there used to be a teachers’ smoking lounge, “which shows how long I’ve been here.”
Next year, he will teach four periods a week, but said he is looking forward to having more time to do some of his own photography and travel.
“I have a fantasy of moving to interesting places for a few months, such as Paris or Santa Fe,” Morris said.
He added, “I’m pretty lazy, so it will be nice just to get up and have a second cup of coffee. It sounds like heaven.”
Overall, “this school has been a great place, and working with high school kids has been great. I love them all.”
Morris recalled a time when he said to a class, “I hate teenagers, but I love you guys.”