CAPTAIN'S LOG: WEEK 6
“My drug of choice is teaching. And the interaction with my crew/students is my medicine.” This was what I have told my crew. And this week happened to prove this to be very true.
I shall discuss the relevance of the above statement before this entry ends.
If you recall I tried a different technique presenting comparison and contrast. Instead of my lecturing about this style of writing, I wanted to see how well they would be able to discover how this style of writing is done by listening to the podcast I set for them and the sample presented in the handbook. They were to bring to this session their effort at setting up the outline and theme. How well did this work? Not well.
Yes, there always will be a few who figure it out. However, as a whole the crew found it frustrating having to compare and contrast the items assigned: “Gee, Captain, this was hard. I spent hours trying to figure out what made these characters the same and different. There were no concrete answers. I really had to think because the answers were not easily found.” I agreed. Having them try to compare and contrast two characters or two poems was challenging. Even having them compare and contrast two images was still difficult. As others shared their frustration and difficulty, I recognized they had tried, but they did, indeed, need lectures and more.
So, I told them they could re-write this assignment. As they requested I gave them more choices. The rewritten comparison and contrast assignment could be about any two items—mother and father; parent and child; softball and baseball; etc. I saw relief on my crews’ faces. They could handle subjects of choice that were more familiar. They did not have to go into depth to ascertain the similarities and differences. They could handle the familiar, things they knew answers to, but not work with items that did not have specific, one answer to; that is what the original assignment required.
Then, it dawned upon me that most of my crew were very young and very used to being tested and taught to pass standardized tests. Many experienced an educational system that forced teachers to teach to these tests. And these tests have negated, from my perspective, creative thinking and the ability actually to handle the realities of real life, where there were multiple answers, many that could not be found in a multiple choice set of pre-programmed answers. And that was the real challenge of the comparison/contrast assignment. As one of the crewmembers stated: “It was hard.”
And their sharing and questions were a wonderful stimulant for me. They kept me on my academic toes. Then, a crewmember asked if I would say more about this work on Thursday, and my eyes began to water with tears.
Their medication lasted just for so long until the inquiry occurred.
About five minutes before I was to walk into that crew session, I received a phone call from my superior stating I had to leave the ship and be hospitalized. Why? From a MRI searching for another health challenge, a blood clot was found near my heart. One might call me crazy, but I needed my “drug and medication”—teaching and the interaction with my crew/students. So, I attended the class session.
Of course, I knew I had to stop the session and explain the reason for my tearing up. I did. I had to let them know there would be no training session on Thursday because I was pretty certain that I would not be out of the hospital by then. However, I did encourage them to send the re-written work to me via e-mail as attachments.
And, after my giving a clear but brief explanation (quite honestly, I did not know that much about my condition), I resumed teaching. And my crew, I knew, were wondering why I was there. I could see the expressions on their faces. At the end of this session, I wished them the best and reiterated that “teaching is my drug of choice, and, you, my crew/students, are my medication. That is why I am here, and, if I did not have to be hospitalized, I would be here on Thursday. However, even I have to follow orders.” Then, I dismissed the session.
Yes, even captains have personal lives. Still, as captain I did all I could not to stop teaching. So, while in the hospital, I graded work sent to me. Indeed, the hospital staff remarked about my devotion to my crew. However, I just told them that this was a different way I was getting my “drug of choice.”
Now, let me reflect on many years ago…
Dear Diary, March 2, 1971
Today my classes were great! The guys of 4/5s really enjoyed the way I am teaching Romeo and Juliet. This made me feel good. I look forward to reaching this class every time.
Dear Diary, March 3, 1971
A busy and decent day.
Dear Diary, March 4, 1971
My 4/5 class really socked it to me. Their discussion topic was “Sex.” They touched on every point. I was surprised, shocked, informed, and humored.
The ignorance of some of my students about certain basics surprised me. To think a 15 year-old girl states that a girl cannot get pregnant the first time of sexual intercourse. These girls and guys will be leaving school soon. Something should be done.
The guys’ opinions were shocking. Young 15 year-olds already resolving themselves to the fact that after two years of marriage one’s wife becomes frigid and it’s ok to go out with other women to have sex when wife is pregnant. Good Lord, what next?
Yes, what next, indeed? See you next week!