Giving Yourself

Today I began teaching my new advanced writing classes. I remember what a mentor told me nearly two decades ago: Great teaching is love of subject, love of student. 

I am so thankful for this wise advice.

I also remembered all the terrible advice I received in the early days of learning to teach well. The words echoed in my mind as I walked in the rain to my new classroom.

Terrible piece of advice #1: Never go early. Whatever you do, don’t go to class early. You’ll just sit there looking at students. You’ll have nothing to say to one another. Never go early. 

I go early. I talk to students. That’s when I learn about their lives.

Terrible piece of advice #2: Develop a teaching persona. Teaching is a performance. Find the persona. It’s not you, it’s the teaching persona. 

I bring myself. There’s no persona. There’s no act.

I heard from an instructor who told me that he was told to “turn himself off” to be a good instructor. He could be anyone else, just not himself.

I realized that so much of our teacher training, at least at the college level, involves distancing the professor from the student; you create professional business transactions where you hide yourself, never share your life, and perform the task of transferring information.

And, whatever you do, you never go early.

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