A great teacher will learn from you, and better yet - learn with you. A great teacher will love the learning process. Not all aspects of it, but many aspects of it. I have known many, many fabulous teachers throughout my life. In and out of the classroom, teachers have deeply, deeply affected my life. To be in the company of true teachers, teachers who love what they do, is to be in the best company. To be in the company of true teachers is to be in the company of true learners - those who are open to learning and those who love the process of learning. This is a special blog post for me, because I realized recently something that I am thrilled to share with you. I am a teacher. I have been a teacher since I was a young child. Sure, not everyone listened to my lectures or engaged in group discussions when I was six years old. Not everyone listens or engages now. That doesn't mean I'm not a teacher. I am. I have been, and I am. It's a great revelation, and it's empowering.
For the past couple of years, I have felt a bit like I am searching in the dark for something unobtainable. It occurred to me today that maybe when I find myself in the right place, doing something that is right for me, that I will not feel so much as though something were missing from my life. That may or may not pan out, but it feels good to delude myself into thinking that I might find fulfillment. And since I am feeling oh-so-right about being an English teacher, I'm tempted to believe! I am a pleasure-seeker, but I often feel guilty about it. The other day, I was talking to my counselor about how I feel like it will be so much fun to be in an English graduate program. Fun? As soon as I said the word, I felt a tinge of guilt. Nooooo, not funnnnnn. Graduate school should be terrifying and grueling and barely survivable, right? Wait a minute. That doesn't sound right either. I realized that the Critical Voice in my head was equating pleasure with sin. I realized how often I feel guilty for doing the things I love. Yet I almost always do the things I love anyway. I just let the guilt seep into that not-so-nice place within myself where it festers and bubbles up every so often to remind me that I'm a terrible, impulsive, selfish, gluttonous animal.
Today, while I was at the playground with my wife and our girls, I was sitting in the wood chips, taking photos of mushrooms. I was zoning out. I was with my family, but focused on the mushrooms. A voice inside my head was saying things about how I came here with my family but am instead spending time with myself doing something selfish - taking photos of mushrooms. I didn't stop taking the photos until I was done. Then I rejoined my family. Another thing I have realized about myself: I like to day dream and I spend a lot of alone time doing it. I never realized how much of a loner I am until now. I love being around people and I love talking with people, but I also love equally being alone with my thoughts. My thoughts and I have one innnnnnteresting relationship. Only one or two people have ever come between us. Really, though, this is a part of myself that I am just starting to recognize and accept. I still feel guilty about daydreaming.
If I'm flighty, I'm flighty in the best sense. If I am an air head, I am an air head full of intellectualism and romanticism and creativity. My thoughts are very interesting TO ME. Unfortunately, even though they are private and safe from outside criticism, the outside criticism is already inside me and now has a permanent place in my air head. Somehow and somewhere along the line, I have internalized all of the criticisms of others I have ever encountered. They are not floating free-form around the constellation of my mind; they are secluded to one part of my mind. The stern and unloving puritan in my mind should keep quiet more often than he does. He's not my conscience, after all. My conscience, unlike my puritan, feels anxious, sick and scared. My puritan feels painful, he's always picking a fight with me. I'm on the defense against my inner puritan, but somehow he finds a way to get a word or two in before I can thoroughly enjoy anything. He's been pretty quiet these past few days, and I'm enjoying his silence. I don't know what it means, but I like it.
These past few days, I have been delighting in my decision to forgo the Clinical Psychology plan in order to follow my great pleasure. English. I have decided to go to school to be an English teacher. No more denying it to myself, this is what I want. This is where it's at (my heart, that is). I think I denied it to myself for so long because I wanted to be my own person and I thought that in order to do so I had to separate myself from my history with English. When I was in high school, the talents I possessed that were recognized by others were all in the realm of drama and theatre. But, if you could have known how I felt inside, once I was acquainted with the subject of English for the first time during my Junior year of high school, you would know that I felt like English was my calling. I lacked confidence because it was such a new revelation. I didn't have any skills in the area of my calling, and it was hard on my pride for me to recognize that (it took years...). It didn't matter that I didn't have skills. It was the calling that mattered. I felt my calling. The skills did not need to be there then. The calling did need to be there.
Okay, one more dirty little secret - I not only realized in high school that I am a lesbian witch, I also realized that I am an English teacher. In high school, I KNEW that being an English teacher was a major part of what/who(?) I wanted to be. Just like I knew that being a lesbian was a major part of who I wanted to be. I was never at home academically in ANY other subject. It was English, only English. Theatre allowed me to use my talents. English allowed me to use my passions. I think a marriage between the two is best (I don't know why the theme of marriage keeps coming up whenever I talk about English, but I guess it just emphasizes my level of commitment). I always knew about the two and their prominence in my life, but I never realized that I have another talent-passion. Teaching. I'm not a technical teacher. I'm more of a spiritual and emotional teacher. But I happen to have a talent in theatrical pursuits and a passion for language arts pursuits, and if I can bring all of the forces together I might just be one mother-loving English teacher. I am inspired and creative, too, did I mention that? Sorry, I have been taking all of these career and personality tests that have been helping marginally.
Why did it take me this long to figure out my core Web of Passions? Oh well, I eventually had to figure it out - I am, after all, attached to the web I am building. Don't worry, my students aren't my flies. This little analogy stops here. The best realization I have had this week is one that I will share with my students on our first day of classes: that knowledge is not the core requirement for a teacher OR a student. I don't have to know everything there is to know about grammar or literature (eek, slap my wrist and hand me a dunce cap NOW). It's not the grammar that makes a great English teacher. It's not knowledge that makes a wise person. Knowledge is like God, it's unattainable and illusive. Openness is what fuels learning. Openness to new ideas. Willingness is what eases us into learning. Willingness to communicate.
My goal, as a teacher, is not to cram information into someone's head or down someone's throat- it's to open parts of OUR minds to information. This takes the pressure off of student and teacher: we are there to learn and discover and enjoy together. In imperfect harmony. I cannot think of anything I would like to do more. I shared in learning with my high school English teachers, I share in learning with my wife and kids, I share in learning with you. I'm not scared. I'm not scared anymore about what I don't know. I guess I finally know what it's like to have a Fearless Love, thanks for the lesson, Melissa Etheridge (insert the emoticon of your liking). I'll be there, I'll do the work, I'll love the work, I'll love being there. I will be honest. I will be myself. It will be okay. I will listen to them and be open to them and share with them. The relationship and the work happen together, in sync. If I am present and they are present, what could stop us from learning? We're learning every moment we're alive and open. So, yes, I am learning. About myself. I am still open.
That is why I am here, that is why I still love, that is why I am accepting who I am. I could have been a Broadway star, if only I wanted to. I could have been a Clinical Psychologist, if only I wanted to. I could have been a rock star or a folk singer, if only I wanted to. I can be an English teacher -a Folk-Rock-Clinical Psycho/logist-Broadway-Actress-English Teacher Star- because I want to. I am good enough for English, and English is good enough for me. We love each other, we really do. No papers necessary, the proof is in the English pudding. And I don't have to be more. I am enough. This, my friends, is self-acceptance. Do you know why I love English teachers so much? Because I wanna be like them. Because I AM like them. We're getting married soon, and you're all invited to the wedding.
Everyday is Teacher Appreciation Day when you are married to English. The Brides of English know that English, herself, is a bride - the Bride of English.
A(n academic) Personal Announcement of this Marriage will arrive by way of Wrecking Blog in the near future. Check your mailblogxes and look for the name: McFadden-English on the address label.
Do you like the name Wrecking Blog better than Mason is my Middle Name? I'm open to change.