school started a couple weeks ago. there are some things that are consistent. the dilemma of what to wear on the first day [first impressions and all]. the wondering of what this semester will bring in terms of students [will they be engaged? what do they want to learn?].
this semester i ran into a colleague on day one who admitted that this was his first time teaching college. i grinned big and asked if he was nervous. or excited. or both. he asked me how long i had been teaching. i quickly calculated in my head. TEN YEARS.
oh my. i am getting old. i am becoming someone who says "kids today" [i can say this because i am interacting with kids today]. i have been doing this for a significant portion of my life.
i haven't done very much for a decade. i've been an artist, i've been with my husband, i've lived in oakland, tonka has been in my life [other pets have been around for over a decade, but they are no longer with us], we've lived in this house, and that's just about where my short list ends for things i've been at for over a decade.
i was thinking about if i'm a better teacher now than i was when i started. or if i was better then because i was trying SO hard. what i'm concluding is i can't really know if i'm better or worse [we'll have to ask my former and current students]. but i do know that i'm different.
many things come easier to me now. i've been exposed to so many different kinds of students in all different places in their life/art making that almost nothing throws me for a loop anymore. i'm quicker to come up with suggestions; i suffer fools less; i see thru excuses faster; i don't waste as much time anymore [if a student and i aren't clicking - if they aren't holding up their end of the bargain i don't agonize over what else i could possibly try. i keep trying, but i don't loose sleep over it]; i grade tougher; i push harder - but often in more subtle and more effective ways.
the standing up in front of class pontificating is easier than it used to be. i have a bigger bag of tricks to pull from. i'm more willing to be completely off the wall and crazy to get a rise out of them. i have more life experience to relate.
teaching ultimately allows me to think of/about my own work. so in some ways it is inherently selfish. i get to research and talk about one of things i love most at my job. i get to watch lightbulbs go off in student's heads. this is perhaps my favorite part. where all of a sudden their world view is changed. forever. how they make work won't be the same. and i am a first hand witness. it just takes ONE of those moments a semester to make it all worth while.
i am grateful for when i have a semester full of those moments. but i know there's no guarantee. i know that i am NOT the best teacher for everyone. and i've come to realize that in the end that is quite OK too. when i think back to my college experience i can glean things that are of importance in influence to me today that did not in fact come from the teachers that i thought were the best, or who i had the most personal relationship with.
what makes a good student/teacher? my brain is simmering ideas - my personal take on john cages rules for students and teachers. maybe i'll actually try to type that out.
happy back to school to you and yours if it applies...