I’m not sure if I should be a teacher.
Sometimes young people get on my nerves terribly. They know everything, opening their mouths to reveal, mostly, that they know very little. And they reveal this with such cockiness that you just wanna slap ’em in the mouth like a misbehaving child.
I’m convinced that this kind of thinking has been the Universe’s most effective source of contraception for me. Forget Magnum and Ortho Evra, go into an American university classroom for twenty minutes and you, too, will discover the mind’s absolute ability to determine the body’s functions. Many of my eggs have dried up not thanks to the years I’ve clocked on the calendar but the ones I’ve clocked in the classroom.
Case and point. An English upperclass student tells me: “A periodical is different than a literary journal.” I begin to explain, “A literary journal is a type of—“ “No but a periodical is actually, really different,” she shushed me authoritatively and went on to explain how a scholarly journal and a literary journal were, in fact, practically the same.
I should not have such a hard time with this situation. They call these teaching moments and I missed my opportunity. I let her finish and didn’t bother to repeat—to teach—the definition of a periodical. My inclination was to act her age, “Heffer, are rain and water the same?! Alright then!”
Letting her go forward thinking that rain and water are different is the kind of disservice I try to be so careful not to do to students. But that takes a lot of work: holding your hand back from the pimp slap it so desires to execute; maintaining your poker face; keeping your lips from forming to wonder aloud, “What the F***?!”
Most days I am good at setting expectations I believe they can reach albeit with a little work. I sincerely want them to be capable thinkers and communicators of their thinking. And most of the time I want to offer them as much information as I can and I want them to use it to pursue even more. But then they open their mouths to tell me they “already know.”
What I find, instead, in their authoritative voices, is they really do not know that rain and water are not separate things. That what they “already know” is really the same thing as what they don’t. At 18, 19, heck, 25, I thought I knew. And I did know what I knew. The more living I did, the more I learned; the more I knew. And at each age, I knew what I knew.
They know what they know. It’s limited by their experience. But just as right now, I am sure of some things, so too are they. I just wish they would shut up sometimes and let those who know a little bit (and granted, it’s only a little bit) more help them to know more.
But I guess that’s part of what made youth so fun for us in the first place. It’s why we say, “If I knew then what I know now…” drifting off into a daydream, grinning right sneaky.###