Thursday, October 14, 2010

Making Fun of a Teacher

I would definitely dislike it if anyone made fun of my teaching, but over the years, I have learned to enjoy making cheerful and heartfelt fun of myself. After school, I sometimes sit in my classroom laughing to myself at all the foolishness I had put on display during my classes – all the self-important posturing, all the posing as a distinguished, higher-than-thou individual, all the pretending and play-acting, as though I am actually an unusually talented teacher. Occasionally I even break into gentle laughter as I picture myself striding around the room, cross-examining my students about the subtleties of Dickens’ prose, lecturing about the light that can lift up from fine sentences, sometimes leading the class in cheers for themselves. I see myself, then, in those insightful after-school moments, as a devoted and moderately capable actor playing a sometimes momentous but always slightly amusing role. I think what I find so funny is the seriousness with which I take myself, as though a greater weight rests on my shoulders than on most other people’s. My teaching wouldn’t be quite so amusing if I wasn’t so unreservedly earnest about it, so thoroughly convinced, it seems, that I am a kind of knight in shining armor for my young pupils. I seem to be saying, “Let other folks find their way in menial occupations; I labor in an honored and hallowed calling.” Yes, I get some good laughs as I drive to school in the morning and recall this histrionic classroom performer named Mr. Salsich. My almost-daily laughter before school is good for me, because it always slows me down and lets me see, again, the simple truth – that I’m no better or greater than anyone else trying to do a decent job, be it controlling pests, building bridges, or creating English lessons for kids. All of us are, in a very good sense, actors playing roles the universe bestows on us, and all the roles are of equal value. While I’m on stage in my classroom, the maintenance guys are on another stage down the hall, and the bus drivers have their own special stage to strut their very necessary stuff on. What I have to do is keep playing my role with heartiness and fidelity, while always remembering that it’s simply one of a zillion parts played across the cosmos -- and that it deserves a light-hearted laugh every so often.

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