limited time

7 09 2006

Blogging doesn’t work well with a teacher training program. Blogging doesn’t work well with a teacher training program and a course to teach. And it’s only the first week.

I’m expecting the posts to be a bit more spread out, which is a shame since I was doing so well for a bit.

But I will try. I’ll try to work past the guilt to sitting here typing this when I know I should start reading something about educational psychology or Grade 9 literacy.

I have started a new current read since Tolstoy is proving even more incompatible with school right now than blogging. I’m really, really enjoying it and don’t feel the tiniest bit guilty for picking it up between classes instead of that darn Educational Psychology textbook.


On language

4 09 2006

I was particularly struck by some points made in a post at Tales from the Reading Room, particularly since I’d been mulling over “academic language” since reading Zadie Smith’s On Beauty.

I never understand the idea of explaining ideas in the most complicated language possible. If the point is to share ideas, why not do so in a way and in a language that everyone could understand? It is something I strove for in both my oral presentations and my articles.

It seemed not everyone shared my opinion. In most cases, the more obscure your language and your references the more intelligent and insightful you were. My Gothic grad class was perhaps worst of all and I still remember the feeling of being verbally attacked in what might as well have been a foreign language by one classmate who belittled everyone else in the classroom just to make herself more intelligent in the professor’s eyes – and (more’s the pity) she was on the whole successful.

It was perhaps because of this that I was most struck by the section in Smith’s novel that focuses on Katie. It is a very minor section, but important and it underscored to me how much is lost when we cannot find a common language to share our thoughts and ideas.

Smith details Katie’s reaction to some assigned paintings. Her thoughts are immediate, insightful, even inspiring perhaps. Smith describes how excited she is, to speak in class, to share her observations. She is “determined this time” will be different from others, this time she will speak (252).

That optimistic determination Smith almost immediately counters with dialogue from Dr. Belsey:

“What we’re trying to . . . interrogate here,” he says, “is the mytheme of artist as autonomous individual with privileged insight into the hum. What is it about these texts – these images as narration – that is implicitly applying for the quasi-mystical notion of genius.” (252)

This type of language creates a barrier that Katie cannot bridge. She sits silent, all those insights, all that excitement left within as “the class escapes” her (253).

It is the type of language that would have terrified me as an undergrad and a young grad student and that frustrated me beyond end by the end of my time there. Too many times did I sit there as Katie did, having thoughts, ideas, reactions to share, but not able to bridge that divide between my (perceived) plain-speaking ways and those who seemed to speak in tongues.

I see it differently now. But I don’t think I will ever forget what it felt like, to sit in a class, always hoping that things would be different, that I would be able to communicate and then suffering through an hour – even two or three – where I felt myself inferior, where I felt myself wanting, all the while with a growing uncomfortable consciousness that everyone else in the room was aware that I hadn’t spoken and knew the reason why. It was so freeing to sit through my final grad class and know that I would never have to feel like that again – that I would never put myself into a situation where I would feel like that again.

Age and wisdom

1 09 2006

So I made it through my first day back at school.

For most of the morning, I felt quite old. There were quite a few “mature” students – more than I’ve seen before. I’m not really in the category of “mature” student yet, but I have a good four to five years on the average student. Most are right out of their BAs. I still look like them, I blend in with them, but I am very much not one of them. And all morning, that made me feel old.

But I what I realized later – particularly when I heard from a few of those same youngings how overwhelming they felt all of this and how unprepared they were – was taking that time off was the best thing I could do. The two years of nonesense (as I’ve been calling them) made me ready for this in a way that I wouldn’t have been four years ago. And I think that will help me and I’m even more convinced it will help my future students.