Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ya-honk! I say, and teach the Whitman!


I rocked the teaching today. Totally rocked it. And I say this not because I think I'm really cool, but because I've been so un-cool, really, in the classroom, and it's nice to have a decent day. I also assume that next week (or tomorrow) I'll have an uber-crappy day, and I'd like to record here, now, that I don't always suck, so that I don't forget.


I had them read this beastly long essay on "bipolar unities" in Whitman. Truthfully, I hadn't read it before I assigned it, which is a giant teaching no-no. I barely survived the experience of reading it yesterday, and I was trying to get them pumped up this morning (8:30am), give me some interesting thoughts about it, and they just wouldn't. They were un-pump-able. They looked at me like I was reciting the alphabet in Chinese, backwards, very slowly, over and over.


Did I panic and stutter and clam, as I've done every day since I started this job? Oh no. Not today, mon ami. Instead, we shouted Whitman. I teach in this great classroom in the library with a big greenhouse-like-attachment-deck type thing. So I told them their faces were blank and boring, and herded the whole class out there, and made them shout chant 14 of Leaves of Grass, which starts, "The wild gander leads his flock through the cool night, / Ya-honk! he says, and sounds it down to me like an invitation ..." Is it not lovely? I got goosebumps up and down my legs as we all shouted the chill, triumphant ending. Oh, it was beauty. And they said, as we went back into the classroom, "We should shout Whitman every day." And so we shall.
So then I was trying to teach structuralism, as applied to Leaves of Grass, so we did a crazy Whitman madlibs, where groups crossed out sporadic words of the poems and other groups picked new words for the slots. And they giggled at themselves, and then we talked about how it fit in, how the words make up the structure, how, although words are abitrarily assigned, they hold up the structure and context of the poem, and any alteration unravels the binaries, etc etc. They were BRILLIANT! It was wonderful.
Aside from how we wrenched and butchered the bard's pristine poems in the madlibs exercise, I think Uncle Walt would have been proud.

6 comments:

eden said...

that's awesome dej! sounds like it was a great class period. i'm glad you rocked it.

oh, and, ps, you are definitely really cool!

kathy said...

Oh, I wish I could sneak in your classroom and sit at the back. I'm sure it would be delightful.
(I had a crappy teaching moment yesterday and I lived it over and over again all afternoon. Bad idea.)

belann said...

Glad to hear it went well. Sounds like you are really back to your old self. You have always been good at thinking on your feet.

Elise said...

I wish I'd been there.

How's your dear Sam?

Amara said...

I thought Uncle Walt was Walt Disney. This is a much cooler uncle Walt. He would claim you as kin I suspect. I'm just glad to hear you're kind of on top of things again --at least in one sense! I'm kind of getting run over by my schedule right now. Nice to read about a triumph.

Alison + Brandon said...

Dear Deja,
I wish you were MY teacher. Also that you were teaching my classes. Also that I could find a way to teach Whitman in my classes. But anyway, I'm glad that you had an awesome teaching moment because those are moments to cherish.
Love,
Alison

P.S. I am happy about your life.