Wednesday, June 11, 2008

In Aldous Huxley's Those Barren Leaves Francis Chelifer invents a game to take the tedium out of office work. It brings, he boasts, all the thrills of the fairground - the big dipper, the roller-coaster - right to your desk. All you have to do is pause for a moment in your daily grind and ask yourself: Why am I doing this? What is it all for? Where will it end? Ask yourself these questions thoughtfully enough, and though firmly seated in your office chair, you will feel like the void has opened beneath you, and you are sliding faster and faster into nothingness.

Well, here goes. I'll begin, unsurpsisingly, with a quote from a writer. In his 1972 lecture, 'Philately and the Postman,' Alan Garner pronounced:

Creativity in teaching is not to turn a random block of individuals into musicians, painters, authors, because any of them who are going to be these things, will become them in spite of you, certainly not because of you.

Having asked myself Mr Chelifer's question. That is, why am I teaching, when most of the time I don't enjoy it, and sometimes I feel like taking anything just to get the hell out of it.
In the classroom, I've recently taken the strategy of trying to make them forget that I am there. Of course, there have been good and disastrous consequences. But an almost invariably successful tactic was:

to write short plays for the Students to read, enjoy and ultimately, to provide them with the raw materials to write their own. Teaching, like most jobs, is often unpleasent and frequently pointless. But, to use another symbol from Alan Garner's lecture:

Left alone, the child, in my experience, will climb into the astronaut's seat; but the teacher is too often yelling at him to come down and concentrate on the scrap iron.

The problem here with trying to give Students a leg-up into the astronaut's chair is that most of them are so fucking passive. And I'm no good at motivating people who aren't self-motivated. In fact, it goes against what I believe in to try to motivate people who aren't self-motivated, or allow some jumped-up blackboard scribbler to motivate me. So I intend to be out of the teaching game forever within a year. Not that I berate teaching or the people who do it - but it would go against who I am to try to make a career of it.

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