Maya Angelou says that we are all teachers, that someone is always watching how we respond to kindness, to cruelty, to life's challenges. And, that we inspire with a smile or a truth, with the way we carry ourselves into a room or prepare a meal, touch the head of a child or hold a cat to our chest.
Yesterday I went back to high school for the first of two courses I will be teaching this year. The kids were engaging, bright, curious and lovely, really lovely. I still have no voice, so I wrote everything on the big scruffy blackboard in a cold room of a three hundred year old building. There are sideboard cabinets lining the the walls and filled with school records and taxidermy geese and lizards and drawers with Latin labeling, taped shut with wrapping tape. (I plan on asking them what the heck that is all about when I get my voice back!)
I gave them a questionnaire about their plans and dreams and later, reading their words, I was filled with hope. Youthful hope is a contagious thing.
I like my job so much.
Last night I met a student for coffee to try to convince him to stay in a course where he is the weakest student and doubts his ability to catch up; doubts his capacity to keep up. Teaching is asking someone to believe in themselves. Teaching is giving someone a tool and watching them use it. A teacher is a person who watches and learns what the student needs and then tries to find a way to help them discover how to get it.
At ESC I can navigate the course to my degree in a very personal way and this week I laid out the academic path to my B.A. and here are some of the courses I have chosen.
Intro to Religious Studies
Intro to Ethics
Exploring Place: History (The study of how 'place' and community have shaped civilisation)
Thinking about Race, Class and Gender
The Development of Gender Identity
Adolescence and Identity: Home, School and Community
Intro to Sex and Gender - Cross-Cultural Perspective
Stress and Coping
Adults as Learners: Theories and Strategies
Family and Society
Schooling in America
Analysing Behavioural Choices
Women, Girls in Media
Images of Women in Western Civilisation
Artistic Expression in Multicultural America
The Future of Being Human
Spanish Language and Culture
A rich selection, and there were so many other courses in Latino culture and African American culture that I did not choose, but was curious about.
I am trying to layout a foundation of knowledge and consciousness that will make me a better teacher, critcal thinker and more balanced human being. My challenge is to leave behind my prejudices and take up the cause for a clearer mind and an open heart.
I send a shout out to Gessica and tell her to be strong, Einat who is cleaning her stuff out, to Francesca who is living her dream in London, to Kenzie who is harvesting (better late than never), to my sister who is in the middle of change, to Lynn who is healing, to Veronica who is a rock, to Kari who is swimming in her own poetry, to my mom and dad who are navigating illness, to Dorene who is living at home again, to Rita who is planning her course, and, to Isabella who is negotiating her future. And to my students, tiny and old, who are courageous enough to learn a new language.
Maya says, teach on and continue to inspire.