Back to School

I’m realizing with each post that I have some strong opinions about education. It really goes to show how much effect teachers can have on children. That’s a lot of responsibility right there. I remember the first time I was talked to sternly by a teacher: kindergarten. I wanted to paint (a theme!). I was at the easel, all set up, ready to go, and my teacher, just trying to keep all the balls in the air, was not quite ready for me, and told me so quite pointedly.

I remember the drama teacher who made me never want to act again. It was during a summer program at Yale. For five weeks, I could do nothing to please him, then during my closing meeting, he told me he had such high hopes for me at the beginning, but that something had happened somewhere in the middle—a switch had flipped—and I went downhill. Well, I know what that thing was that happened: I gave up. Stopped trying. Didn’t care.I remember the teacher who made me love Hamlet. Man, did I love Hamlet. Couldn’t get enough of it. Every single scene and all the myriad interpretations for each. The same teacher made me love The Grapes of Wrath, poetry, writing, and dissecting every little thing I read. He taught me to think critically for the first time.

I remember the teacher who gave an extra point for drawing a shark, a tick, or a duck on any test, quiz, or paper. Though this is a fantastic creative detail, it is not what really made him stand out to me. He treated everyone—EVERYONE—equally, and everyone respected him equally.

I was talking to a friend the other night who teaches high school english. We graduated together from the writing program at Emerson. I was talking about this blog and about how much I have realized from it the effect teachers have had on my life path, my confidence in the things I do, etc. I mentioned the theory I brought up a few posts back (that she and I discussed numerous times back in the day) about how sometimes teachers, particularly art teachers, are people who failed at what it is they wanted to do and fell back on teaching. She said how very wrong she thinks this theory is, and that people need to teach to write or do something to make money. I’ve been kicking this around in the back of my mind ever since, and I think what I’ve come to decide is I think teaching is such a creative art. I know it sounds sort of contrived when stated like that, “molding young minds” and all, but it takes a lot of quick thinking, flexibility, action/reaction to really become one of those teachers who stays with you. The job really falls under the rules of improv. And man, the reviews can be brutal!

Another friend is teaching kindergarten. She’s just taken the early childhood certification test. So if you were me, you’d think this involved material on early development, socialization, some theory-ish stuff. Nope. We’re talking questions on the fall of the Roman empire, algebra, American history. Kindergarten! What??

Well, I’m going to wrap up the stream-of-consciousness State of the Ed Address. I think a couple good ideas came out of it, particularly that teachers should take improv classes! No really. I have a lot more to say on the subject that I will save for another day.

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