Friday, July 15, 2011

I'd Rather Be Teaching

“Devote myself to my students, my teaching," writes Joyce Carol Oates in her raw and oh-so-real memoir, A Widow’s Story: A Memoir. "This is something that I can do, that is of value.”

She writes these words in the desperate weeks after her husband's death, when she can barely leave her bed but can’t stand being in her house, or anywhere, alone.

She continues: For writing—being a writer—always seems to the writer to be of dubious value.

Being a writer is in defiance of Darwin’s observation that the more highly specialized a species, the more likelihood of extinction.

Being a writer is like being one of those riskily overbred pedigree dogs—a French bulldog, for instance—poorly suited for survival despite their very special attributes.

Teaching—even the teaching of writing—is altogether different. Teaching is an act of communication, sympathy—a reaching out—a wish to share knowledge, skills; a rapport with others, who are students; a way of allowing others into the solitariness of one’s soul.

Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche—so Chaucer says of his young scholar in The Canterbury Tales. When teachers feel good about teaching, this is how we feel.

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