Teaching is an activity that demands constant vigilance and stage presence. I have never really thought of either, especially as a team, but as I have dived into teaching, the two seem to come hand in hand.
I have also felt bad. I have felt bad for the fact that I have not been able to construct any sort of meaningful thought over the last three weeks because, in my new job, I don’t get much time to myself; let alone time to myself in which I don’t have to worry about my University studies. Sadly, my university studies have suffered as well, and since I am not doing Greek and Latin as much as I should, nor reading anything beyond the scope of classroom teaching, I have not had the brilliant ideas I usually blog about here.
However, today is different. I have decided to write not because I should or came up with something absolutely gorgeous or smart to write about or expound on, I am have decided to write because I need to. I have realized that writing is a way for my thoughts to escape from my mind and be liberated from the drudgery of cyclical thinking and analytical exploration. Those thoughts, whilst kept from the outside world, are like different tiny little lights in a very dark room. They flicker and move, distracting my subconscious and causing periods of distraction far beyond their deserved relevance. Those are the thoughts I am freeing now, beyond the scope of my mind, so they can flutter out as newly hatched butterflies. They are beautiful, although I am happy that the ugly cocoon it left behind can now be disposed of and never seen again. Too many of those going in my mind for me to focus. But not anymore, now they are free.
So no super awesome Latin phrase today, no Greek translation, no creative thought of any kind, just an idea about teaching and what teaching can do for the young mind. Teaching is an activity that demands constant vigilance and stage presence. As I said above, it is something I never expected to see together. In order to become lost in the performance, the performer must not worry about the audience, too many distractions going on. Similarly, he who is to be vigilant, should not have to worry about their stage performance for, after all, they are not in the spotlight at all, but somewhere in the shadows. Teacher, unfortunately, are both in the spotlight and vigilant; they have to be, otherwise the students will go crazy, especially those at the back, and become lost forever in the recondite corners of misunderstanding. The teacher is the actor and the security officer, he is the performer and the bouncer, he is the playwright and the copyright agent.
So how can one perform and be vigilant at the same time? I have no clue. I didn’t say I would give any answers, just ask some questions. Perhaps, though, we may find that if we actually perform so well that students cannot help but listen, then we are both being vigilant and good performers all at once. However, nothing gets the attention of a classroom like good comedy, and many of us are just not great comedians. Perhaps acknowledging student interests can help. I sometimes ask kids (if career day is coming sometime soon) what they would like to be when they grow up. At first, there is never much participation, but once you answer a couple of the career choices with enthusiasm and even explaining a couple of the job options that those kid may have, others quickly follow suit and start answering as well. The performer, then, even when a teacher, has to connect with his/her audience on a day-to-day basis. Of course, the more rapport you build the better so, eventually, you can stop having to be funny, or extra attentive, and turn yourself to teaching.
In the end, we perform so we don’t have to watch as often. Perhaps that is true, maybe it isn’t; but I have found that when I have the class -performance-wise- I don’t have to spend as much time watching it. Even the kids who usually misbehave and don’t pay attention are drawn out by the vast majority who is having fun in the classroom. I guess one can make performance work for oneself. It boils down to interaction, I suppose, but not interaction with those who we have to watch, but interaction with those we don’t. If the majority is, indeed, paying attention, we can actively force those who don’t to pay attention as well. Thus yes, a teacher is both vigilant and a performer, but as he/she becomes a better performer, then vigilance loses ground until, in harmony, the class can move along together and learn.
There, let it be known it is fortitude which grants victory – and that I can still speak Latin. Do not cease, reader, to try.