Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Teacher's Ramblings

I've been quarrying knowledge to prepare!

With the start of school looming up tomorrow, I’ve been rather busy.

However, I’m happy to say that I'm actually ready (as ready as one can be to teach, that is), so I’m sitting down at last to write a blog post.  Unfortunately, the flurry of tasks to do before work begins has kept me from writing or even editing, so I think I'll just tell you a bit about life as a teacher, instead.

I started teaching in college, actually.  My college was very, very small, but nonetheless had an even smaller prep-school attached to it.  In my senior year, there was a dearth of teachers, so the principal came to me and besought me to teach sophomore Latin.  I agreed, since my college scholarships had gotten messed up and I needed the extra money.  Thus began my glorious career as a teacher. 

Actually, I just helped four fifteen-year-olds through the extreme basics of Latin, so it wasn’t that glorious, but it was interesting – a good experience.  For one thing, it was a co-ed school, so I learned what it’s like to have boys and girls in the same classroom.  As mid-adolescents, the boys were very shy about appearing foolish before the girls, whereas the girls seemed much more confident and ready to display knowledge.  I felt that was an interesting revelation about the difference between the young male and female psyches.

After I graduated, I had more or less decided not to teach.  My father is a teacher, and so I knew from watching him how easily the job can consume all one's time and interest.  I was worried about the fate of my writing if I started teaching, so I thought I'd avoid the danger altogether.

I looked about this freaked out when I was first asked to teach!
Then the principal of my own high school called me up.  She said, with a beguiling tone: ‘We’d love to have you teach for us.’  Then began a period of mental distress for me while I tried to decide whether my decision not to teach was strong enough to resist the pleading of the extremely charming principal.  It turned out not to be.  Charm wins out over vague decisions any day. 

So I started teaching – Latin again and some English literature, this time in an all-girls, private school.  Now several years later, I’m still at the same school and my repertoire of classes has expanded to include History and classical Greek (I have warned you in the past that my interestsare extremely geeky).  For a while I continued to think, ‘Oh, after this last year of teaching I’ll head off and do something else for a job.’  But now I’ve given up.  It appears that I’m set to be a teacher for the foreseeable future. 

This year I have twenty hours a week, plus two extra hours of supervision, so I’ll be keeping busy.  There are 7th, 8th and 12th graders hungry for Latin (hah!), 9th and 12th graders hungry for Greek (even bigger HAH!), 8th graders hungry for history (this one's probably true, at least), and 11th graders to teach English lit.  I’m pleased with the line-up of classes. 

However, with that much to think about, I spent about two solid weeks getting ready for it all.  I would have devoted even more time, but luckily I’ve taught several of these classes in the past, so I’m not starting from scratch.  I'm sure anyone who has been a teacher can sympathize with how nice it is to teach the same classes from year to year.  Steadily things get simpler and you feel on top of your subject.  It’s a bit like writing, in fact:  the more you practice your skills, the more your work improves, and the more you self-edit, the better your performance becomes. 

Sometimes I wouldn't mind having a cat's leisure for writing!
I am a little sad, though, that besides one poem, I’ve not been able to write for more than two weeks now.  After such a long (and enforced) break, I’m definitely feeling the need to work on my stories once again.  There’s always this niggling fear that if I don’t keep actively writing, I’ll lose the ability and the desire to write at all.  In the end, though, I think that fear is what distinguishes a devoted artist from an amateur.  The latter doesn’t mind letting talent fade once it’s burdensome; the true artist is harried by both desire and fear to keep that same talent alive. 

So, in my quest to be a true artist, I will hopefully do some writing tomorrow night, as a way to celebrate the successful inauguration of my school year.  At least I hope it will be successful…Everyone, please keep your fingers crossed for me! 

Expect more news soon.  I’ll keep you updated on how I’m balancing between work and writing, now that teaching is beginning again.  

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