Why I Teach (The Response)

So on Monday I posted my teaching “vision statement” as a way of sharing more of what I’m like as a teacher. That is, after all, my “first” career, with editing and book blogging being my secondary ones.

In an attempt to build community and allow the kids to know even more about us, my co-teacher and I allowed them to ask questions of us. They were allowed to do so anonymously, and then we chose some to answer in front of the class. I compiled their questions into a list (because that’s the organized type of person I am), and I’m posting them here. Why? Well, because their questions constitute yet another reason why I teach, especially the one in bold. Hope you enjoy!

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Why Do I Teach?

I’ve answered this question a lot, and the way it’s phrased varies depending on who’s doing the asking. Family members and friends usually preface their question by saying, “I don’t know how you do it.” Students ask, and it’s often framed as “Miss, why do you teach US?”

This year, I’m co-teaching with my best friend (who posted her teaching vision statement on her blog last year), and part of our community building is to share our vision statements with our shared class.

Admittedly, I balked at first. I figure students will learn soon enough why I’m here and what my hope is for them. Plus, I am not the touchy-feely sort of teacher (or person, really), as will become evident when you read my statement. Also, whenever I hear “vision statement,” my brain goes two ways. I think of a vision quest, which is awesome; but then I also think of nasty educorporations that want to vision statement their way into schools and take them over. So the connotation of the “vision statement” phrase is an interesting and conflicted one for me.

At any rate, I wrote one to share with my students. And since sometimes I do post about teaching on here, I figured it was the perfect time to share with the world in general why I teach. So, without any further ado, here is why I teach.

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Shakespeare, Oppression, and Today

During class last week, I showed students how to break down practice AP Language and Composition argumentative essay prompts. The one I used to model for them was an excerpt from a speech in King Lear.

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To My Students, To Make Much of Time

At my previous school, we had a tradition of “adopting” seniors and doing our best to successfully “parent” them through their senior year. At my new school, we don’t adopt kids per se, but I always refer to my students as my “kids,” and despite the confusion this causes sometimes in conversation, I actually feel like they are my kids.

This year, I continued part of the adoption tradition with my AP Language and Composition students.

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Neil Gaiman is Right.

A month ago yesterday, Neil Gaiman gave a lecture at the Reading Agency in London. Yesterday, I gave his speech to my AP Language and Composition students to read. I had two motivations for doing so:

1) They are learning to analyze argument, and Gaiman’s argument is so overtly stated it is a great place to start, and
2) They need the added push to help them understand the importance of reading fiction in helping them become productive and literate members of society.

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Oh, the Humanities!

Seems I’m not the only one paying attention…

I grabbed this bit of writing from The Answer Sheet as I was browsing the internets the other day. Thanks to Liz Willen, I had a lot to think about on my day off.

Let me begin by highlighting the quotes that caught my attention the most:

“It saddens me to think of a world without literary references, of people who can make a living but come out of a movie theater with nothing to talk about.”

The first thing that came to mind after reading this particular quote was the ease with which I (over) analyze movies anymore. Thanks to teaching literary analysis at a higher level, I can easily identify Christ (or anti-Christ but not the scary kind) figures, sniff out plot twists (see my recent post on the novel Allegiant), and comment on the inner struggle portrayed by the movie character’s external struggle (Gravity). Oh, and I can also tell you what it means when people eat together (take your pick of literature here), and what it means when Okonkwo can’t fire his gun. I love being able to have conversations about things like this, and I absolutely LOVE that my daughter sees these things too – in books, no less, not just movies. My students make connections too, albeit they are more likely to connect what we’re studying to Keeping Up With the Kardashians instead of to Shakespeare. I guess one has to have a place to start.

The next bit is from Willen’s colleague Justin Snider:

“Many enter college believing their only career options are in business, engineering, law or medicine,” Snider told me. “These are the professions they know—or think they know—and these are the professions their parents most often hope they’ll pursue.”

While he continues on to say that a lot of those who enter college with that mindset eventually discover new fields of study (sociology, anthropology, even sustainable development), “[t]hey learn that success can take many shapes, not just in the form of initials (M.D., J.D. or M.B.A.) on their résumé. I tell them that what matters most in college is not what they major in, but that they find something they love—something they can imagine doing for a lifetime.” Great. Except that those people choosing to do “something they love” are becoming harder and harder to find, especially in an economy like the one we live in today. There is a great push for success over symbiosis and support, and for notoriety over knowing and knowledge. I see this a lot in my role as a teacher, and I’m fighting against it “tooth and nail,” as my mother would say, at home.

Is there any joy anymore in just knowing things? Any joy at all in being able to draw a parallel between things that happen in pieces of literature, and how they play out in everyday life? For instance, the recent post I did about Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus” cropping up in an NPR story about people working in boring jobs. People (the people doing the study, not me) only make that sort of connection when they are well-read and, well, they know things. Right? Do we still, as a society, place any value in being, well, smart? We should – and that is why we should not let go of the humanities, but hold on to them for dear life.

Until next time…

Being a teacher…

Being a teacher means being a lot of things. It means being a guidance counselor, a mentor, a proficient multi-tasker, a confidante, a shoulder, a parent, a sister (or brother), a reality check…I could go on and on. Perhaps soon I will, in a more studied and heartfelt fashion.

However, for today, being a teacher means grading papers at Panera. Yep, that’s right. That’s where I am. Just took a short break to write this because it was on my mind. That is all.

Until next time!


We, as a culture of educated people, have to keep ourselves from losing the humanities forever. My blog will focus on my own exploration of the humanities, including papers focusing on history and literature, and how that exploration helps me recognize the humanity around me.