My Life in School
My Life in School
For over 30 years I’ve made a life of teaching. Now that I’m within sight of the end of this occupation, or preoccupation, I find it alluring to think about what I did or didn’t accomplish, what I might have done better, what I might like to do in the years left to me in the classroom. I find myself thinking, too, about my early teachers, wondering what they taught me, and what I found useful—or definitely unhelpful—in their examples. Having become aware of how little decent writing exists on the art of teaching, I’ve got some hope that my reflections will help those at the beginning of their work in the profession. It still seems odd to me that I wound up in teaching. As a student in high school and college, I often felt that a teacher was someone who got between me and my reading. I used to believe that teachers unfairly attempted to control the nature and pace of my work, my rate and quality of retention, the ultimate direction of my thoughts. I considered these things private matters, and still do. (If a book was listed on a syllabus, I naturally veered away from it, not toward it.) Fortunately for me, a few teachers seemed different from the rest. They were genuinely and deeply interested in what they taught, and I knew they would be focused on the material before them even if the class suddenly dissolved before their eyes. This material, this subject, was their life. And they never tried to control my thinking; rather, they led me with considerable subtlety in directions I found challenging, if not always congenial. In short, for reasons too difficult to explain, or impossible to explain, I needed a light touch, and they provided it. I was always suspicious of the classroom as a testing ground for intelligence, a place for sorting the “good” from the “bad” students. The idea of the academic world as a place of competition repelled me. To be frank, it still does, and I never feel happy with students or colleagues who seem excessively interested in grading, in putting up barriers to jump across.
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