I use that word “performance” a lot when discussing teaching, and I really believe that what the teacher is doing is a performance. You are saying that this set of behaviors has some meaning. That’s what you’re doing is a spell as well, and that’s definitely what you’re doing in a poem. A poem asserts: I’ve made this line, and this is going to have some effect on you. Just the act of believing does make it have an effect. For example, in a class, if I am going to get ten oranges and ask students to write a poem, just the fact that a teacher has decreed that as important—it does become important. You have a classroom of students who have not only thought deeply about oranges, you also have a classroom’s worth of poems about oranges. Or if we say that we’re going to read John Donne, then that becomes really important. A whole group of people will see his work in a new way—it wouldn’t have happened otherwise, if the people had simply read him on their own. It may seem arbitrary and specific to the particular teacher, and it is, in a holy way. Every teacher brings their style into the classroom in ways that both crucial and critical and this why we still need real-life teachers, not machines, to teach our students.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
A lovely interview with Dorothea Lasky at P&W (via Robert Polito):