Sunday, March 4, 2012
Yesterday I woke from a dream in which I was teaching a composition class in my bedroom. The students were sitting cross-legged on the bed, on my floor, on chairs. Apparently in the dream, it was the norm--class wherever I designated; the students were attentive, alert, no one was texting or looking at their cells. I was standing in front of them, but really not as an authority figure but just the conduit for their self-discovery. In reality, for the last 12 years of my university teaching, when the weather is nice, in the fall or spring, I do take my classes outside. We sit everywhere on campus that is dry and clean and well-lit. A patch of grass, a hillside, (and at Hampton University) the stairs of historic Ogden Hall, under Emancipation Tree, at Booker T's statue...We held class in Hampton's famous museum a few weeks ago, and one student's reflection said she didn't know images and pictures could speak to her like that. I'm paraphrasing her words here, but her feeling was she was included in the artist's process, but also implicated in the learning. Oh, the joy of reading her reflections. "Teaching" is an interesting word, because few parents asks their child, "what were you taught today," but rather what did you learn? I like to learn at every moment of my life from everyone around me, and though it's not always a lesson I would have asked for, I learned something. Every class, particularly for my freshmen and women, I always want them to come to class thinking "what will I, can I learn today." The location of the class is less important, I have discovered, as Socrates or any Priestess of Egyptian temples would probably concur. Our lives are the classrooms; our encourage and respect are as important as the books. For many students, we are their books. They "study" us as we lecture, move, take roll, share. I studied my favorite teachers like this since kindergarten. Every moment we assume or subsume the roll of the "teacher," what we tell them, direct them to, what we SHOW our students is what they ultimately learn. And I love every minute of it.