Did You Have a Good Day at School?

Posted: September 25, 2013 in Uncategorized
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By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

I’ve taught thousands of students over my fifteen years of teaching. I’ve forgotten nearly all of their names. If they remember my name, I’d be surprised. I’d rather them remember something I taught them, though I prefer the verb “share” to describe what happens in the classroom because share is the most accurate verb for what teaching encompasses. Teachers share their passion, their intensity, their curiosity, their perspective, and their (frequently groan-worthy) jokes. Teaching is the act of sharing ideas—a wonderfully generous act, and teachers devote their lives to it. Teachers share facts, information, and, ideally, knowledge. How magnificent that ideas are not depleted but expanded through the act of sharing. Ideas are meant to be taken and shared, like bread passed along and across an endless table filled with teachers and learners.

I think about the countless ideas shared with me over the years by my patient, brilliant teachers, my talented, supportive colleagues, and my engaged, enthusiastic students. One of the most fantastic aspects of my teaching career is Teach-New-Conceptsthe time spent with students. What a fantastic way to spend the day, surrounded by unique individuals who challenge and surprise and delight me every day. My students push me to explain myself more clearly, to think from a different perspective; my students bring new, unexpected ideas and experiences to the classroom. My students regularly make me laugh. My students are generous, and I gain an immense amount through knowing them. I elicit book, film, and music recommendations.  Some students have offered even more amazing treasures. An eager student in my literature class created compilation CD’s to accompany his essays on Kafka and Existentialism. One student was inspired by my poetry lessons and wrote a sonnet (a sonnet!). Since college terms move quickly (especially at RMU), the years and students cycle by me at an alarming rate. I will encounter students and assume a year has passed, only to learn they have already finished graduate school. Some things that my students have shared with me in the past have become a part of my courses. One remarkable idea—a gift from a student whose name I have forgotten—continues to inform my teaching and learning: “Progress is success.”

I’m lucky to be a teacher, happy to be a teacher. One of my favorite “games” to play when I was young was “school.” My older sister Theresa pretended to be the teacher while I was the diligent student, listening attentively, working hard. Was that nature or nurture at play? In any case, I have spent the majority of my life happily learning, reading, and writing. I talk to my students about the necessity of investing in themselves. When teachers do all the things that make teaching—that is, sharing ideas—possible, we are investing in the education process. I believe in education as a means of individual and, consequentially, social empowerment.

There is nothing better than a good day teaching. A good day teaching is wildly exhilarating; it is a ride on a luck dragon

“A good day teaching” is about one thing: connectivity. I am overly fond of quotes, especially the simple, beautiful command from E. M. Foster to “only connect.”  A good day teaching is about confluence and culmination and ultimately an arrival at a point of connection between ideas and people that results in insight. This moment of insight sparks a remarkable phenomenon: the student’s face will actually, noticeably light up (and what a lovely light).

“We do not remember days, we remember moments,” says Italian writer Cesare Pavese.  And so it is that “a good day teaching” consists merely of moments. A good day at school has been captured in many inspiring films. I’ve cried watching every one of those films which elevate the classroom experience, but the subtle accomplishments in the excellent documentary The Class reveal a more perfect truth. Extraordinary moments of learning are fleeting, like the sighting of a rare a astonishing bird. In reality, “a good day teaching” entails, perhaps, one brief hour on the luck dragon, the other seven hours  (or more) are spent preparing course materials, reading ancillary documents, researching curriculum, grading assignments, updating course materials, attending meetings, holding office hours, and other necessary aspects of education.  This does not mean that all the other aspects of teaching are drudgery. They are the things that must be done in order to get a ticket for a brief, yet glorious ride.

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