Monday, December 7, 2009

Get Smart

I wish I was (were?) a better teacher. I think that there are some parts of it that I am good at. For instance, I'm not a jerk; I feel comfortable in my skin, in a classroom, even in a big huge one, and it's easy for me to be playful and easy. I find weak students perfectly gratifying to work with, so long as they are interested. I think I model a kind of intellectual integrity. I think I'm even a little charismatic, in my own way. That stuff all comes naturally. But the real crux of the matter, in terms of the skill of the thing, is being able to create repeated, well-structured moments in which students can think actively in relation to a bit of content. The best teacher I ever had, art of teaching-wise, always made me think of the opening sequence to the old tv show Get Smart: hallway upon hallway that would end in a sliding door that would open just as the guy got there. The problem is that my own thinking is so profoundly static: I see cross-sections of form/composition. I just do. That's my one intellectual gift. So it's hard for me to create narratives into which students can enter. Specifically: mysteries, with plot turns that students have to work out. Instead I always want them to help me draw a picture. It may seem - though only for a minute - that that could be ok too. But nah. Plot turns are the way to go. And what they hinge upon is posing the right questions. So far I have learned that "In what ways does .... ?" is always better than "Why does ...?" but I have no innate talent for it. Sucks.

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