Sunday, April 17, 2011

Teaching: a short recap and some thoughts

Over the past 5-10 years I've been interested in teaching. It hasn't been a ruling passion of mine or anything like that, but it has been an interest of mine right up there with literature, camping, and discussing odd subjects with my husband. Given my interest it would have seemed sensible for me to do something like major in English education instead of the taking the English/philosophy path I did take. However at the time I had grandiose dreams of graduate degrees and professorships and the like because I figured that was where the fun happened. A professor takes open minds and pours into them all the distilled knowledge and passion from her own and searches for that one answering spark in the minds of her students. In between teaching there are researches into the compelling book of the moment and long hours of crafting prose that simply sings with new discoveries and insights. Perhaps that is true for some professors, but I rapidly begin to suspect that it's not. During graduate school I continually saw students and professors driven not by what is, not by the true and beautiful, but by voters and interest groups and this heaven turned hell that secularists long to create on earth. If it's true that men (in general) at all times and in numeral ways oppress women (in general) and that this is one of the great truths of literary history then that says something very specific and odd about how you read. Books cease to be windows into the human condition (at least in the way commonly thought of as such) but instead function at frames for the persistent arguments of feminists against men. Jane Austen becomes a feminist. Shakespeare becomes a misogynist. These become moral categories, and they start to privilege books to support their own faulty understanding of the world and denigrate books that would question these values. "So," they might say, "you do much the same in saying that Shakespeare or Bunyan or Burke is better than Hemingway, Joyce, or Rousseau." The difference, which hardly bears mentioning since they willfully can't see it, is that we have a firm set of standards for evaluating all literature in all ages. True the tides of opinion might ebb to and fro and legalism or license takes the upper hand in Christian culture. The point is that we have fixed principles that guide our taste and evaluation. They don't and are therefore at the mercy of every new student demographic and every new socio-political stance that appeals to their secular hearts. And so I left. I walked away from graduate school and every dreams of peacefully scribbling away in my ivory tower. I suppose I could have gone to a Christian school, but on the whole I don't think they're so very much better. I was also looking at doctoral studies, and the school where I went had a program to do so.

By the time I left I wasn't sure where I was supposed to be. I'd always had an aversion to government run education programs, and so many of the Christian schools just toddle along with the same methods as the government schools. I wanted something different. Then I found this classical school that let me volunteer and learn on the job. I got to work with students and see the process happening on a lot of different levels. I learned later that some of the processes where dictated by the board and that not all the teachers thought them effective, but at least I got to see real Christian education happening. Just recently I was hired temporarily to fill in for a couple teachers who left abruptly. It's been challenging, and yet I find it so addicting. I didn't realize how much my students would test my compassion, justice, intelligence, and judgement. It's incredibly intense, and I love it. I really feel like I've found something I can pursue. Unfortunately, since this particular school is closing I don't have the option of carrying on there next year. At this point though I'm just glad to have found something that makes me come alive and want to get to work. Right now the hard part is mainly trusting God that I'll be able to continue working in Christian education. Despite the doors slamming shut I feel confident that somewhere the road will shake itself out, and I'll find myself in front of the right door at last.

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