First Day Back at School After Vacation
So I was in discussion with the art teacher today, and I was telling her about my dilemma with choosing settings for my short stories, and how I find "write what you know" a bit limiting.
"Well, what settings do you know?" she asked me.
"Well, I grew up in rural NY, I'm a mom, and I'm a teacher. I guess I just find these aspects of my life so boring that I prefer to imagine different settings--even those which I would never experience in my lifetime."
"Why don't you write about a teacher who has a fantasy life, then? That's the kind of thing that bestsellers are made of," she told me. (literal words, hence the ending in a preposition.)
"That could be a bit dangerous," I replied, and as I said it I felt rather foolish. What is literature if not dangerous? I guess that gives me some food for thought.
I also thought about times when I talked with students, learned about them, their lives and some of their issues. At times, I feel so powerless to help them, and other times I want to be their mothers, to protect them at all costs.
A student told me the other day that she had been cutting herself to relieve anxiety, but that now she was in recovery. I knew that she had not been turning in work, but I didn't know why. When she told me, I just cried. And then she cried, and then we were both standing there crying. What do I know about pain? Sometimes I wish that I could just absorb it in my own body like a sponge and rid them of it once and for all. And to hell with the damn classwork.
So many times, however, I think about being a teacher and I'm bored to tears. Teachers are usually depicted in literature and movies as authoritative lunatics who impose their own will on students and therefore ruin their lives. Others depict this passionate, inspiring teacher who bends over backwards and transforms as if by magic this impossible group of students. I am neither of these descriptions. I work best with students who are naturally and intellectually curious, those who are open to building relationships with me as their teacher. I'm a disaster when dealing with students who reject authority and hate my guts from the get-go.
I don't know of one single student of mine who became an English major due to their experiences in my classes. So many of them, scattered out there, and I don't know whether any of them were inspired for one moment by something they read in my class. I hope this doesn't mean I've been a failure.
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