Tag Archives: teaching

New School Chronicles: The Discourse of Teaching

At some point in Ph.D. school, I was in a class about discourse. My professor explained about one type of discourse in particular (and the exact title eludes me now, ugh) that one could be in a situation and learn the discourse, but, eventually, the truth would out. One might attempt to internalize the patterns of speech, of nonverbal communication that accompanied that speech, etc., but one day, that same person would find him/herself in a situation that required them to know the nuances of that discourse. Not knowing those finite details–which people who had grown up with because they had created the discourse–the “imposter” would be detected. Thus, one could swim in those waters but the possibility existed that they would one day be found out. I think that’s accurate–I’ve somehow lost all my notes, but these theories bubble up at the weirdest moments.

I bring that up because that’s what teaching in the suburbs felt like. I was out of step when I first began, but through careful observation, reflection and patience, I learned the discourse of teaching in a suburban school: how to talk about practice, how to lead discussions, how to do things differently than what I knew from an urban environment, essentially.

However, I never quite felt comfortable with that discourse. It never felt quite right, quite…me. I missed my more familiar discourse.

Now, in a different environment, I think the discourse is more appropriate to what I want, but now, there is nuance. So, while the discourse of this new place is familiar, I have opportunities to inflect that new knowledge from the suburbs.

I’m creating a hybrid discourse. This creation is both exhilarating and scary–but what I’ve realized about this process is that I’m not afraid to try it anymore. I used to be, so scared that I was going to mess up, not do something right…fraught with stress and tension.

Now, though, I’m much less hesitant to at least “dip my oar” into the waters and paddle. How interesting, too, it is to brush by familiar touchstones and carve out new ones within my practice, and to invite others to do the same.

There’s room for all, here, and because this is a hybrid discourse, I’m hoping to alleviate the fear that there’s a “right” way and a “wrong” way to do it.

We just gotta do it.

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Dipping My Toes into the Waters of Academe

I was conflicted while completing my Ph.D. and haven’t necessarily resolved the issue: how do I live a life as a teacher and as an academic? And, because I hate conflict, I took the easier (?) track of being a classroom teacher rather than a professor.

Some of that decision was easy: I didn’t have many academic leads, and I didn’t really invest a lot of time and energy into finding an academic job. In my mind, becoming an academic meant sacrificing in ways I’m not really willing to do: giving up all joy for seven years to run on a wheel, publish, publish, publish…

My attention span is barely longer than the adolescents I teach at times, so I let those excuses suffice and remained in the classroom. Don’t get me wrong. I love teaching; otherwise, I wouldn’t do it. Seriously.

Now, however, I have the opportunity this year to teach a couple of graduate classes to preservice teachers at a local small, private, liberal arts college and, dare I say, I’m excited?! My excitement manifests itself as planning: lots of lists (with highlighted items to mark importance), notes, bullet points that double as aspirations, multiple revisions upon revisions of a syllabus, running through simulation of classes in the middle of the night (I’m weird like that; don’t judge me).

A completely unexpected reaction, frankly. I thought this decision would be attended by hesitancy, by doubt, but that isn’t the story.

Maybe it’s time for me to think about working the hypen: teacher-academic. I could get used to that…and in the meantime, as I try this on for size, I’ll be working out the daily pressures of theory and practice. How else am I going to be able to talk about (or not talk about) kids and literacy and teaching without commenting on what happened/happens in real time?

We’ll see if it works. If this dip is positive enough, maybe I’ll go wading.

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