Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A teaching dream

I was teaching a college English class in my Brooklyn elementary school, in a corner classroom with a high ceiling, hanging light fixtures, and large windows and shades on two walls. We were reading a Hemingway novel; I don’t know which one. As I collected some in-class writing, we got onto the subject of regimentation and rules in high school. A great spontaneous discussion ensued, during which I realized that I had forgotten to bring my Hemingway. I kept that realization to myself. I mentioned two points about the novel as the time ran out and the room emptied. One point: a description of a tattooed character in Hemingway owed something to Djuna Barnes’s novel Nightwood . The other point I cannot remember.

All this time I was being, as they say in education, “observed”: a colleague was sitting in the back of the room watching me at work. When the class ended, his only suggestion was that I make greater use of the blackboard, a suggestion that seemed to me wildly irrelevant to what had just gone on (as of course it was). I explained that I had gotten away from using the blackboard in my teaching.

I can think of a number of elements that play a part in this dream: a recent New York Times feature on the first day of school in New York City, a letter to a friend that mentioned the debilitating effects of high school on new college students (who ask where they should write their name on in-class work), a fambly member’s student-teaching, and my liking for Nightwood , a novel I taught several times in lieu of The Sun Also Rises . My reasoning: students could read and make something of The Sun Also Rises on their own at any time. But they probably wouldn’t get another opportunity to read Nightwood , which offers another picture, and to my mind a much more compelling picture, of a lost generation.

Related reading, via Pinboard
All OCA dream posts
All OCA P.S. 131 posts
Smith going backward (from Nightwood)

[This dream marks my first classroom appearance since retiring.]

comments: 2

The Crow said...

About ten years ago, I stopped having those 'returned-to-school-can't find-my-classroom-gonna-be-LATE!' dreams.

Yours, too, will pass, but as long as they are as good as this one, I hope not too soon. This was good reading.

Michael Leddy said...

That kind of dream I had when I was teaching. Now in dreams it seems I can do no wrong. : )