Saturday, November 8, 2014

Our Business is the Soul

(Allegorie Mythologique, 1580. Eccole De Fontainebleau)

Any poor schmuck can be an English Teacher.
(Le Combat de David et Goliath. Daniele Ricciarelli)

Born in an English speaking country, snag a passport... off you go!  Next thing you know, you're standing in Asia with a workbook in your hand saying, "Alright. Alright.  Alright."
(Le Combat de David et Goliath. Daniele Ricciarelli)

You should see these jokers.  Pot bellied.  Reeking.  Five minutes late.  Class a disheveled mess.  Students yucking it up!  English Teachers be like… "What page we on, dudes?"
(David vainqueur de Goliath 1606.  Guido Reni )

A Literature Teacher is different.  Teaching Literature is not a job, not a profession, not even a career.
(Le Triomphe de David 1615.  Bartolomeo )

Teaching Literature is a lifestyle.
(Le Coucher de Desdemone 1849.  Theodore Chasseriau)

It’s waking up at 2 a.m. dream/agonizing over what you’re going to say to that one kid who confessed a secret fear in their journal.  It’s pacing an empty classroom muttering poetry to yourself.  It’s long walks at night ruminating upon novel characters and their choices and how to make that real to students.  It’s personal narratives that connect with every set of eyes in the room.  
(Salome receives the Head of John the Baptist, 1527.  Bernardino LUINI)

It’s a thoughtful process that only intensifies when the bell rings and the school is deserted.  It’s not math algorithms or science labs or history notes or physics diagrams… It’s Literature.  It’s illumination.   
(Hercule et Achelous 1617-1621. Guido RENI)

On your best days, while others are stumbling over protocol and common core and page numbers and lesson plans and outcomes and skills assessments… you are a Literature Teacher and you illuminate.
(The Temptation of Christ, 1854. Ary Scheffer)    

What does it mean to know every story by heart?  What’s it worth to see any painting in the world and say to yourself, “I know that story.  I’ve lived that moment.”  What’s it worth a person to have that capacity?  That depth?  English Teachers don’t know…but Lit Teachers do.  Our business is the soul.

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