13 September 2012


I had a discussion with someone recently in which I was told that I am rare.  Not like. . . undercooked meat or precious ruby rare.  Rare in the thinly veiled euphemistic and slightly nicer than saying weird kind of rare.

It kind of ticked me off.

Under context of this conversation, it was being suggested to me that teenagers want nothing more from life than to have fun and be loved.  And while I don't doubt that these things are part of a true teenager (or human) experience, I tried to explain that as a teenager, and particularly as a student, teachers who spend their time wanting me to feel good about myself just pissed me off and teachers who only wanted to have fun were even worse because I wanted to not waste my time.

"Well, that's rare."

Is it?

Maybe I'm just delusional.  I would never claim to be exactly normal.  I have particular tastes and strange quirks that don't really make sense to some people.  Sometimes I'm super social and sometimes I want to book a trip to the middle of no where for a week just to escape everything (which I nearly did last week, by the way).  Sometimes I'm hard to read.  I'm super confident and open about some things, but private about weird things that people wouldn't expect me to be private about.  I get that.

And I'm also not saying that I liked teachers who didn't have fun with me.  But the kind of fun we had wasn't stupid games or trite things that didn't matter - fun came from a really great debate or talking about a book that had changed my life.  It came from a teacher I knew I could trust enough to share opinions with and have them be respected.  A teacher who respected me and trusted me to excel. Fun and learning were interdependent, not the antithesis of each other.

I don't think that I was unique as a student.  I think I was unique, perhaps, in how aware I was as a student of wanting to learn and not wanting my time to be wasted.  But in the time I've spent with teenagers over the last three plus school years, I've not had too much experience with teenagers who appreciate adults treating them like incapable, lecherous liars that just want to have fun all the time.  To be honest, I find that kind of insulting.  And I think they do too.  It's why I do my best to tell my students how capable they are.  It's why I dare them to come up with a better assignment than I do.  And you know what?  Every time I've had a student come up with a different assessment tool than the one I give them - theirs is better.  Every. Time. 

Hugh Nibley tells a story of a man who inherits a mansion and spends his time holed up in broom cupboards.  Sometimes I think modern education gives guided tours of the broom cupboard.  As soon as a student gets interested in any other room in the educated mansion, we drug them or punish them or force them into classes they don't want to take and force them into assignments that waste their life.  (Let's be serious.  Did you ever fill out a worksheet that changed your life?)

Oh, and in case you think I'm crazy, I had to stop writing this for a moment because a student came in to vent to me about a silly assignment they were given that will legitimately waste their time.  She's a cultured, brilliant, capable individual that will one day give me someone to brag about knowing, I'm sure of it.  And I can remember a conversation I had with another student lately that was frustrated with a teacher using a classroom management tool that would be decently successful in an elementary school but is somewhat juvenile and insulting for a junior in high school.  And I'll remember the friends I had in high school and college who would pride ourselves on taking stupid assignments from our teachers and doing them twice: once the way we wanted to, and once the way they wanted us to.  And then gloat over the way the teacher would praise our ability to grasp a concept that everyone else had failed to master, when we knew that in reality it had only taken us about five minutes.

1 comment:

A. B. said...

You're not weird. I was totally like that too. I couldn't stand teachers that tried to be my buddy or friend or act like a teenager. I loved my teachers who were adults in every sense of the word and who had high expectations for me and challenged me and helped me grow. I still had fun in their classes but it was exactly as you described. Learning and fun are not mutually exclusive. I was super ambitious then (and still am!) I wanted somewhere to channel my ambition and my favorite teachers are the ones who helped me do it. You're not weird but you are rare because you are that sort of teacher who simultaneously loves and challenges her students and becomes their friend through hard work, not by trying to act like them or control them in weird ways. I would definitely say you are rubies rare :) Love you. Keep up the awesome work. P.S.... do you think you could leave me a message on my blog with your e-mail address in it? I don't have it anymore I don't think!! My blog has comments moderated so no one would see it and I won't publish it. Thanks!