edu180atl: john porter 8.17.12
In Michael Mann’s film, The Insider, Jeffrey Wigand enters a classroom for the first time. “I find the study of chemistry to be magical. An adventure! An exploration into the building blocks of our physical universe! Today we will measure the molecular weight of butane.” He flicks open a lighter and his students are eager. Schools are now in session but I sit at home. I left the profession in July. Officially I am retired. Better said, I just stopped teaching. I have learned today that I miss school.
I found teaching far from magical. I think students carry anxiety as a consistent companion. Everyone from Angelou to Yeats refer to teaching as magical. In my former school there is student anxiety: about grades, college, parental approval! I never could find the antidote for this anxiety that would enable my students to magically engage the deeper values of reflective learning.
I dreamed of teaching my students that honesty is the greatest of personal strengths. I wanted to teach them that they could and should confront their friends with truth especially in morally dangerous situations. Jeffrey Wigand is an important person for students to know. He confronted the outrageous duplicity of the major tobacco companies. For his trouble, he lost house, family and career. I do not think I ever realized my dream. Honesty cannot be measured for a grade. I do not blame the students. I wasn’t very effective. I have learned this is what makes teaching such a challenge.
About the author: John Porter (@jjp_ny) recently retired from the field of Religious Studies. Now ponders the meaning of the educational universe.