Someone recently said to me, “Sierra, do you still blog? I miss your words.” And it took me a minute to respond, because if my answer was truthful, my answer was no, I don’t still blog. Something happened to my blog psyche this year.
My words, well, they’ve been here all along, but they just got stuck somewhere in transit. I’m not sure if the words were busy or just intimidated, maybe a little of both, but they’re back now. I missed my words too, or at least, I missed the saying of them.
I can attribute my general wordlessness to teaching AP (advanced placement) Literature this year for a lot of reasons. The easy answer is that I was just too busy, and to be honest, I got tired of reading. I read So. Many. Things. The deluge of essays to grade exhausted me. For the first time ever, letters became cumbersome.
But it was more than that, really. About 1/3 of the way through the year, my students found my blog. And it’s not like they were breaking the rules, or even being all that rude, but I was more than a little peeved. My private, meaningless corner of the internet, the space that was my own to dissect and discuss and laugh about my life, was infiltrated in small way. Admittedly, my “private corner of the internet” was on a very public blog, so I suppose I had it coming.
I wasn’t really annoyed by their curiosity as much as I was annoyed by the insecurity that set in once the students had access to this piece of me. Here I am in the classroom, trying to be “Penrod,” where on my blog, I’m just “Sierra.” And what if one didn’t command the same respect as the other? What if my students recognized the irony that “Sierra” with fragments and typos, literal and metaphorical, was trying to teach them how to read and write? What if the students didn’t think I was very good? It’s perhaps a shocking realization, uncomfortable for some: teachers are people too. We’ve got vices—insecurity for instance. Even as adults, we’re still human.
So my blog went private for a little while. Which was an excuse for my blog to cease existing for a while.
Fortunately, more recently, I’ve realized, in a mini “Coming of Age into Teaching,” that I actually am a good at Englishing—not a perfect English-er, not the best English-er, but a good one. And while I am better than most of my students, I’m not better than all of them. And somewhere in the space of my wordlessness, that became ok. It actually began to be awesome.You see, when I still felt intimidated by the students, it was because I was at the point in the year where I hadn’t realized that I loved them yet. This realization is a thrilling time for teachers, though, unsettlingly, it occurred a little later for me this year than last. I think my inhibitions about teaching AP contributed to that. For the first half of the year, it was a contest between teacher and student. When I realized that I loved them, it became a club. Clubs are better than contests, and least in academia.
It’s a myth that teachers don’t have favorites, and it’s a myth that we like all our students—myths we try to perpetuate, but still. But I can say with one hundred percent certainty that I love my students, even the weasels, even the troublemakers, and especially the quote unquote bad seeds.
Love starts when the grown up part of me—the no-nonsense, just “get it together” part of me—appreciates my students for the responsible adults they will become, but my affection eventually morphs into love for juvenile kids that they are. I love their vulnerabilities, I love their inexperienced writing, I love their repetitive excuses, and I love their play. I revel in their tender moments, and I love their jerk moments (even if I hate their jerk moments. You can love the kids and hate their behavior. They love-hate you too sometimes). I marvel at their passion, and rejoice in their victories. I am impressed by their fortitude, and their stamina, and goodness—the strength. You’ve never seen strength of character until you’ve taught in a high school. Mostly, I love my students the way that I loved them last year, in that same uncomplicated but oh-so-complicated sort of way.
And when you love the kids, there is no competition. And your blog can be public again. And the words come back.
So I will echo Hamlet’s words, but not necessarily his sentiment, because for me, I rejoice.
“Words, words, words!”
“Students, Students, Students!”