If I Didn’t Teach Them

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“I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.” Diane Arbus (Photographer)

I like to think that every time I step in front of students I give them something they could never, ever, get from another teacher. When I was teaching American Literature, I wanted my students to get the basics about each novel or poem, of course. What I ALSO wanted them to hear was MY take on those works. From there, they could form opposing or similar judgments on their own, and many of them did.

My take was no less unique than theirs, and together we worked to form judgments based in evidence from the works. In the end, I hope that seeing the works through my eyes gave them a chance to judge that perspective before stepping aside and moving to their own perspective.

When I present a workshop now, I want the participants to get a completely different experience than they could get from someone else. Even if our topic were the same and our approach roughly similar, I want to bring a unique set of choices to the communal learning table.

In my book, I wrote quite a bit about authenticity. It’s so important to me because my experience tells me that if you try to teach as if you were someone else, your students will see through you like a hokey used-car salesman. You won’t even have to wear the ugly plaid jacket, either.

Anyone can teach the basics and students will, even then, learn something. But only YOU can teach your subject from YOUR world view. Only YOU can teach like you. So step to the front of the room with your own words, your own perspective, and your own fierce determination to teach what matters to you.

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