Sunday, June 08, 2008

Art vs Science

There's a leftover Friday Five that I didn't do from day before yesterday, and I was going to post that. But when I pulled it up, I noticed I hadn't answered the questions about dirt and sand and stuff... mostly because I don't get THAT involved in the outdoors. It's nice for walking through or watching, but that's about it for me. Plus I've already got two of 'em! I think I'm Fived out.

Over at the Teacher's Corner, there's a thread asking "what made you become a teacher?" Some of the posts bring up 'destiny' or the idea of teaching as a "calling" rather than a "career." (The Faculty Room also has a good series on the topic.) Anyway, in my small group at church today we got to talking about this as they asked how teaching was going and whether I was done for the year and so on. So it's something that's been on the back burner of my mind for awhile, simmering away, with the occasional noisy bubbling. Rafe Esquith and Emily of New Moon and William Goldman and supply/demand and dancing and public service...

So, while I'll try to systematize this as much as I can, please forgive me if I ramble.

First of all, teaching is both a calling and a career, and the two (career/calling) aren't always a package deal, though we often think of them that way. Teaching is as much an attitude for me as it is my job.

Today in small group, we were discussing the beginning of Philippians. Because I'm up here visiting family and I haven't been to this church in awhile, I try to avoid going into "teacher-mode." The group HAS a teacher, and it's not me, and I don't want to steamroller things. But sometimes it's stinkin' HARD! I just seem to fall naturally into taking it piece by piece, thinking about how the part relates to the whole, making connections to other parts of scripture, and asking others about what they've experienced along those lines.

I've really enjoyed the dance lessons that I started taking - back in March, I think. And I've joked that it's my "backup career plan" in case I tick off the administration and get myself fired. I didn't notice it at first, but after someone else said, "So you'd still be teaching, then," I realized I'd phrased it as "dance teacher," not "choreographer" or "professional dancer." (Not 'exotic', mind - I might enjoy it, but I don't think the Hunk would approve!)

At the same time, teaching is also a career. It involves a set of skills and practices that can be learned and, over time, refined to mastery. I'm reminded of the beginning of a book I read about screenwriting - and unfortunately, that book is at home! - in which the author imagines a heated argument discussion between two students about writing as craft/process/science and writing as inspiration/muse/art. Each made viable (if predictable) points, about talent and training.

But I think there's something beyond either talent or training - drive. I don't have my copy of Emily of New Moon here, either, but at the end, where she's letting her teacher read her poems to find out if there is Any Hope At All, at some point afterward he says something like, "If you knew you'd never 'make it' as a poet, if you knew you'd never get published, would you still write poetry?" And she says, "Yes - I don't know why I do it, but I have to." And he kind of shrugs and says, "Well then, you might as well keep doing it, since you can't stop." (Only he's not quite so heartless, although he tries to be!)

William Goldman on Robin Wright:

     I thought she was going to be the biggest lady star in the world.
     Hasn't happened. I don't know her, have seen her once in five years, we have no friends in common. Still, I think I know why. She doesn't want it.
     To be a star, yes, you have to have talent, and my God, do you ever have to be lucky, but riding alongside is this: desire. One so consuming that you are willing to piss away everything else in life. Stars have no friends, they have business acquaintances and serfs. They can only fake love on screen.
     But they get the good table at Spago's...
     [Wright] was to be the lead opposite Kevin Costner in Robin Hood. But she had to drop out because she was having a baby.
     I remember, when I read that, thinking: Barbra Streisand does not get pregnant at such a time...

                                                                 - from Which Lie Did I Tell?

And I think teaching is like that for some people. Rafe Esquith - sweet Jeebus, while he may produce amazing results, I would HATE to be married to him. I really don't understand how he does it year after year after year without completely burning out. I think it may just be that he's wired that way. Erin Gruwell seems a much more likely outcome. Hm... This was my third year of teaching...

Anyway, this is summer, and school is supposed to be "off limits." But I can't help it. I brought two bags with me on my trip, plus my purse. The bag of planning materials for next year weighs almost twice as much as my bag of clothes for the month.

(It's not my fault. Books are just heavier than clothes! At least the books are in the smaller bag?)


Mrs. Chili said...

I've always felt that teaching - for me, anyway - is a calling. I can't NOT do it. I got a job as a customer service rep in a bank, and I became a trainer. I got a health club membership, and I became a fitness instructor. I've yet to escape it.

There IS a "science" aspect to it, too; in order to do it right, one must have a lot of good quality training. That's work - and sometimes it's hard and dedicated work that requires both a lot of time and, often, more money than we'll ever get back as a result of having had that training. The fact that we keep at it under these conditions speaks to the idea that it really is a calling.

Lightly Seasoned said...

I think it is pretty much a calling. But I'm NOT bringing my planning stuff on vacation. OK, just the books I need to get read, but that's it.

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