Saturday, August 31, 2013

What started off as a half-facetious Facebook status

File under "confusing student questions"
1) Mrs Daniel, is this an art project?
2) This thingy isn't working. (Okay, it is a statement, but still, how am I supposed to respond to that?)
3) I can't put this kid's question into a pithy quote, but what I understood (or rather didn't) was that the digital file he wanted to turn in was on his Xbox and he wanted to "remake" it in the lab and what was I going to do about that. To which I tried to make him understand my powers of omniscience, telepathy and teleportation were actually quite poor, and while I was flattered he thought so highly of me, he would simply have to follow my directions for making a new digital file.

The reason these existential kid question were notable (especially #1) is that the deep reason I love teaching kids and not adults is that I am deeply deeply existentially lazy. I love teaching technique and processes. I love explicating tools and procedures. I love getting to know the kids and being a part of their lives. But please please don't ask me to put a lifetime of philosophical questioning and private ponderings into a 54 minute format with 33 squirming tweens. Additianlly, maybe I should be thrilled, but this is the first time in my kid-ed career where I was challenged at an intellectual level I just can't reach myself.

Did I just admit my teaching praxis is intellectually shallow? Well, don't worry, dear reader, I am not about to spiral off that existential cliff. I will show up to class on Tuesday. I will keep plugging along.

Ha ha, nice segue Mrs Daniel

GL has been watching a lot of Thomas the Train lately. To be honest, I enjoy watching it with her. I would love to build those models, that would be such a fun job and I enjoy seeing how creative and clever the model builders are. I love Alec Baldwin's voice. And the stories are great-- a cross between Austen-like comedy-of-manners and literal trainwrecks. And the theme! I can send G into paroxisms of glee when I pick it out on the penny whistle.

The engines are like kids. They try hard to please Sir Topham Hat, the director. He is liberal with his praise-- its clear he likes the engines to be obedient, useful and hardworking. Which is totally fair, he's got a train company to run.

And that is as deep as it is. Far be it from me to criticize Thomas.  My teaching is about as deep as Thomas's rails. We have our schedules and our rails. We have our Sir Topham Hats, and our Sir Topham Hats have their Sir Topham Hats. We have places to be and milestones to meet. We have our equipment that is unreliable, we have our trainwrecks, we have our comedies of manners and cross-purposes.

The obvious critique is, of course, where everything falls apart. The kids aren't engines, and neither am I. And sometimes they ask sticky questions that seem simple, but that I have no pat answer to. And at those points, I am reminded that there is a wild and exciting world, beyond the edges of Sodor.


Kay McKenzie Cooke said...

Delightful analogy. Thomas is great.

Camille Offenbach said...

hi Kay! thanks for visiting!

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I blog about life and soup, but mostly soup.