Thursday, August 24, 2006

Walk to the Back Row and Stand Next to the Kids Who Are Talking

Today school has officially begun, and we'll see if I start to post obsessively about life at the U or if I choose to obsessively ignore it. Would the latter be an obsession or an anti-obsession?

This week's New Yorker has an essay by John Lahr -- Bert's bouncing baby boy; I guess he was born way too soon to turn his status as the scion of celebrity into a career in rock -- about stagefright. I believe every teacher is familiar with this condition in one form or another. But the actor has one advantage the teacher does not. Having sought out the experience, the audience at a play is eager, susceptible, ready to cooperate in the transcendence or the attempt to achieve it. They may judge harshly because they expect much. Sometimes -- dare we call it often? -- your classroom audience expects very little from you. They anticipate mediocrity and irrelevance. Your success is not the issue. The issue is the willingness of your audience to tolerate your failure. Your irrelevance is acceptable. It is even comfortable. We pretend to teach, and they pretend to learn. The cynicism is mutual. Or so I sometimes fear.

I hope this is all first-night -- really it's first-day -- jitters. I guess if it didn't matter to me I wouldn't have the jitters.


Anonymous said...

Visualization is helpful for jitters. Picture yourself naked as you stand before the class.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

What's that line from Yeats about a "terrible beauty" being born? It would be an example of Peacock Pedagogy.