Thursday, January 27, 2011

Teaching Is My Gift, but It's One I'd Like to Return Now

A friend who will teach a college writing class just asked me for ideas that might be used in a fiction workshop syllabus. I duly assisted by sending some of my plans, plus my top hints for being a successful creative writing instructor, and suggested readings, viewings, lessons, etc.

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I got in reply. That was very nice, I thought. This is SO helpful, I was told by the newly minted college instructor. Well, I'm truly glad.

After this exchange, however, I found myself feeling frustrated and a bit depressed. I tried--in my Zen-mind way, which, believe me, does not come naturally, but is, rather, a self-inflicted practice--to figure out why I felt this way and also to just feel what I was feeling in the hopes of coming to a profound realization. Or not.

For more on this counter-intuitive idea, see

I felt depressed, I realized, not because I am no longer teaching--the thought of teaching often causes me intense anxiety and chest pain, actually, given the horrific experience I had last year, the insane abuse I suffered, not to mention the the profound injustice of it all. 

I actually still do teach, but it's one-on-one tutoring. That has been going great, and half the time, I feel overbooked. I guess the depression creeps back when I think about my old school; it's not about teaching in general. It's only the memory of teaching there.

I felt sad/depressed, I realized, mostly because I am positively spilling over with ideas about education and curricula, and I recalled and, for a brief time, re-lived my perennial frustration--when I was teaching--with trying to take school to a new level.

So many people apparently don't want to be bothered to do that, and sharing ideas and trying to infect others with teaching enthusiasm can feel like trying to push a boulder up Mt. Everest. 

My professional presentations often led, I felt, not to kudos but to palpable resentment. Why was this? I personally get excited when someone else coaxes me into having a new idea for self-improvement. Many others, it seems, don't.

I get this, to a certain extent. As a teacher, you may get into a groove that feels comfortable enough. You might not want to re-examine your syllabi or craft new lessons (that takes so much time and energy). Most other teachers certainly do not want other people, especially other teachers, telling them what to do.

I understand. It has never been my intention to tell anyone else what to do. That's annoying. I know. I have sat through countless "Professional Development" lectures. Some were useful. Many were tedious. After every lecture, there was an audience member (a teacher) who muttered angrily, "When was the last time SHE taught?" 

There exists, oftentimes, a very shaky, tentative relationship between teachers and out-of-touch admin. I am not an administrator, to be clear. What I am is a former teacher. 

Other teachers are among my main audience for my blog. Countless people (teachers, I assume) have requested and viewed my AP English Language syllabus and my "I'm Giving it Away for Free!" multimedia lesson. 

I don't know if anyone is using my exact syllabus, and I'd be surprised if anyone was; teachers generally like to create their own, and I think that's a good thing. If anyone is using it, fine. It could be that those teachers are feeling overwhelmed or just plum out of ideas. Maybe an AP class was suddenly thrown at them (happened to me twice; I know how stressful that is!) and they need to get it together, fast.

I haven't gotten credit, yet, for any of my syllabi and ideas about teaching. Whatever. I also helped craft AP textbooks that are out in the stores now and I didn't get credit for that, either. No matter. I know what I did, and I was paid, so that's all fine and dandy.

I really do this out of a sense of service. I have always wanted to help people. Take the help or don't. Thank me or don't. It's not about the credit; it's about helping people who need the help because I can help them. 

Perhaps the sadness I feel when I think about my former teaching life will eventually dissipate because I've completely forgotten it. To be sure, I am often very glad that I don't have to go there and do that now. My teaching career was tainted by trauma, and it's really not something I care to think about at all. I do think about it, but I'd honestly rather not.

It is time for personal reinvention and new paths. In the meantime, I don't want all of my painstakingly crafted lessons to go to waste. I have a motherlode of teaching ideas and plans. If you can use them, I am happy to share. Even if it hurts me to think about teaching when I look at my syllabi again.


  1. You are a goldmine of ideas for teachers, and if they are not thanking you it's because they owe you so many thanks they couldn't even begin to do it right!

  2. Aw, thanks. It's not about being thanked, for me, but rather, I think, about feeling exhausted even thinking about some of my old teaching ideas (because of the pain involved at some points). I constantly have to decide if I should even go there. I always decide to help, but I don't know if that's the right choice for me. Still--need help? I will most likely help.

    Thanks for reading!



  3. Correction, sweetie: Teaching is one of your *many* gifts. You are probably the most talented and multi-faceted person I know!

  4. Blushing, but thank you! I need to remember that I am very, very lucky not to be a one-trick pony. I am lucky to have so many interests and skills. Loving to learn helps with not being afraid to take on new challenges, too. It's all good.

    Thanks again.