When we signed up for duties at the beginning of the school year, I put mine off until after college recs and teacher observations were done, and now I’m supervising afternoon carpool until winter break. Actually, the real supervision is done by a member of the campus safety staff, but there’s supposed to be a teacher there, too. It’s a pretty light duty as long as the weather is okay, which it has been. And Dr. Tea is taking my duty on Friday so that I can leave for physical therapy (which of course I didn’t know I’d be having to make time for when I signed up).
Today I was chatting with the campus safety person, someone relatively new whom I only met a few days ago, and he said, “So how did you decide to become an English teacher, instead of some other subject?”
And I said, “It’s the only thing I can teach,” which seemed funny but is true. Anyway, he laughed.
Yesterday he’d told me that he liked math in school for the definiteness of its answers, but as he got older, he came to appreciate English more. He liked…well, he didn’t mean to be rude, he said, but he liked how you could kind of B.S. in English and get away with it, you know, make up your own answers. He said this apologetically, like he felt he’d been getting away with something back then in high school. (I don’t know how old he is. He has gray hair, but it’s probably premature; his face is youthful, and I’d have said he was about thirty.) And I said, actually, part of studying English is trying out what you think about a work, thinking aloud, and people often feel embarrassed about that, as if they are just making something up and this couldn’t possibly be real thinking. And certainly there are moments when students say things that they think maybe sound “deep” but have little to do with the text at hand–but there are many more moments when someone says “what if…” or “could it be…” and there’s something real there, something they are noticing and feeling, even if they don’t quite know where it came from.
I’d never really thought that about “B.S.” before–that some people think they are B.S.ing because they don’t know that speculation is part of thinking, or that you don’t really know what you think until you see what you say (as Forster is supposed to have said).
(Of course, there are also people who, I’d argue, do it and don’t even know that’s what they’re doing. They sit back with a look of satisfaction–“I Englished!” and you sigh inwardly and get to decide if you’re going to make them try to support the ridiculous thing they just said.)
So the trickle of early college results is widening to a stream. A couple of kids shared good news with me today. Then, at the soccer game after school, I heard more news, some good, some bad. This means there are going to be some weird undercurrents in my senior classes tomorrow and probably next week as well.
I also saw an alum who is attending GU (my graduate university, here in town, a pretty selective institution with an under 20% undergrad admit rate). He told me that his freshman composition teacher said that his last paper was the strongest in the class. I was perhaps just a bit surprised to hear it, but hey, okay, I’m certainly glad for him.