catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 17 :: 2011.09.30 — 2011.10.13


If you want to teach well

If you want to teach well, remember the denim shorts you wore as a child.

Remember how they felt when you lay across your bed at odd angles.  Remember how the snap dug into your belly, how the seams rubbed against your skin, as you lay with your mouth slightly open, wondering why Mitchell S. pushed you, his face red and his teeth gritted, while you were both running to the bus after school.

Remember that you liked to fall asleep in those shorts, at odd angles on your bed, on the nights that felt safe.  The window was open and there was the sound of cars in the warm autumn rain.  In the morning you would first hear the birds sing, then feel your stiff neck and flailed arms that kept you alight near the edge of the bed all night.  When you were ready, with a big breath, you would open your eyes to see what your feet or your right hip usually saw upon waking.  You would marvel at how the same room looked so different from here, how the walls were more bluish and the desk seemed blockier.

If you want to teach well, remember that there were nights you didn’t feel safe enough to sprawl into sleep.  On the nights when you were sure there were men with bandit masks and large noses under the bed, you had to tuck yourself tight into your covers, so that if they came for you, they would have to take the mattress, too, and might be discouraged, and might let you be. 

Who knows how many times this strategy saved you?

If you want to teach well, forget about teaching.

Listen first, like you did for the birdsong to tell you when to awaken.  Listen not for words, but for the way children’s voices fill with music and maple leaves. 

Watch for the look of a tinker on their faces, the look when they suddenly see something small and intricate and they think their minds can make it click into place.  When it happens, it may not be about the multidisciplinary history lesson you spent all last night preparing.  It may be about the spiral binding on their notebooks, or the video game they spent all last night playing.  When it happens, protect it.  If you try to help, your big clumsy mind will just break it.  A smile from a few steps away can be enough.

See the people in front of you, small or big, for who they are — look for the small clues.  Not all scary people wear bandit masks.  Remember that Mrs. H. in the classroom next door doesn’t like children as much as she pretends, and be gentle with the survivors who come your way, glassy-eyed and hypoglycemic.    

Who knows how many times this strategy might save you?

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