Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Self Curriculum

'It is not so much their subjects the great teachers teach as it is themselves.'
--Frederick Buechner, from Listening to Your Life. If this thought makes you think of your favorite teacher, someone who really inspired you in a lasting way, we'd sure love to hear about it. Later in the week, we'll let you know why we think this is an especially timely quote, with the publication of a splendid new book by our favorite teacher.

22 Comments:

At 6:12 PM, Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

It's strange but until you asked the question I had never really given much thought to who has been my favourite teacher. I never really developed a personal relationship with any of them. The one I got to know best was probably my music teacher but that wasn't hard considering there were six of us in the class. The fact is that she probably did give more of herself than I realised at the time but I was young and too self-centred to appreciate that. I met her once a few years after I'd left school and she was so pleased to see me but the one overriding feeling I came away with was of guilt and I couldn't quite work out why.

 
At 6:17 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Jim, this is a good reminder of why my mom always used to say that education is wasted on the young. But the reality is that those lessons have a way of worming themselves into one's brains and hearts, I think. And thus they're not wasted so much as their effect is delayed. Anyway, how lovely of you to visit and add to the conversation, all the way from Glasgow. You found us no doubt through our mutual friend, Art.

 
At 7:04 PM, Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

Quite right. Always glad to see people making contact with Art. He has a helluva lot to say. There's no way I can keep pace with him so it's good to be able to share the load.

 
At 8:28 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

If ever I make it to lovely Glasgow, we can raise a couple of pints and toast our friend Art, whom I almost met (damn!) on his recent sojourn through my region. Meanwhile, I look forward to checking in on your blog from time to time, for the next best thing to the actual experience.

 
At 8:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think that means that the character of a great teacher shines through whatever they teach, and so the student grasps more about life in a broader context than the curriculum calls for, or that a great teacher is always learning? It is, of course, probably both but I wondered if you thought it meant one or the other since we do not know the text from which it was pulled.

Also, are you reading Buechner's book? If you are, what do you think of it? It looks intriguing.

 
At 8:42 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

No, I'm not reading Buechner's book (I happened to cull that quote from the quote that opens a chapter of another book, which I was scanning rather than reading). But he's certainly on my radar screen now because of it.

What I think that quote embodies (and I'm no more an authority than you or anyone else) is several things. That great teachers teach as much by the examples of their lives as by what they formally impart to students. That they take an interest in the people their students are and will become. And that the person and their subject are so intertwined as to be nearly inseparable.

Yes, I do think it's impossible for someone to be a great teacher without also being a learning machine themselves. And character is certainly at the heart of teaching, as it is of just about every other calling and profession.

But enough about what I think. Whaddayouthink?

 
At 10:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think my most engaging teacher was so passionate that he wrote long fascinating essays just for the heck of it; he shared what he was learning with his students and anyone else who would listen. He brought the lessons of the day into the context of his life and ours.

Why does someone pursue such knowledge one might ask? Because, his life told me, it brings meaning, depth, and texture to life like nothing else in the world can. One of the first (of MANY) papers I had to write for him was my reaction to Socrates' quote, “The unexamined life is not worth living." Socrates said that at his trial for heresy. The powers that be were not happy that he was encouraging his students to challenge the accepted beliefs of the time and think for themselves. He taught me to do likewise. The funny thing was, that the search did not lead me away from the path I had chosen; it lead me gloriously deeper into a woods that has been filled with beauty, hardship, terror, duty, passion, and wonder. It is a journey I do not regret.

Today a young man half my age told me he thinks I am an inspiration. Perhaps in some small way I can pass on the gift that teacher gave to me as the passions of my life challenge a new generation. Whether that is the case or not, the riches I have found that reflect the simple eloquence of creation continue to leave this poor beggar at the door of wisdom in awe of all there is to learn.

 
At 10:24 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I rest my case.

 
At 3:34 PM, Blogger Richard said...

Frederick Buechner is an ordained minister who taught religion at Phillips Exeter Academy in the early sixties. He left Exeter to write novels.

 
At 3:37 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Now there's a name that's good to see back here after a long dry spell. I'm guessing he may have been one of your teachers then, RTA. If so, we'd love to hear a report on what he was like, and whatever else you may remember about him.

 
At 4:16 PM, Blogger Richard said...

He was one of my teachers in the minor course [2x/week], Intro to Religions, a comparative study of Christianity, Buddhism. Mostly what I remember of him is that he was a kind and gentle teacher, wholly unlike some of the legendary tyrants then on the faculty.

 
At 4:21 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

So that's why you became a Buddhist. I'm guessing you may have read some of his books, then. If so, which one would you point us to as his best?

 
At 4:27 PM, Blogger Richard said...

I certainly developed an appreciation for Buddhist [and Hindu,Islamic, and Jewish]precepts early in life. But I immersed myself in those days in reading "Great Fiction" and I am afraid FB wasn't in the canon. Perhaps now I will go find one of his books.

 
At 4:29 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Interesting. And (last question for the day, I promise), how about She Who Must Be Obeyed? Is the dissertation signed, sealed and delivered, I hope?

 
At 4:31 PM, Blogger Richard said...

She Who Must Be Obeyed is now Ph. D.

We should get together and quaff a few.

Rumpole the Second

 
At 4:32 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Wow, that is splendid. Please give her a peck of congratulations for me. And I will indeed follow up about scheduling some time to celebrate in person!

 
At 4:31 PM, Anonymous Donna said...

Hi John:

I had a few teachers who stood out in my mind.

The earliest was my 4th grade teacher Miss Fry. She used to let me stay after school and do my homework quietly in her classroom before I went home to a house full of Hooligans (aka the brothers). I never forget the trust she placed in me and later found out she admired my scholarly diligence.

Another teacher was Mr. Vogt. He was the junior high school newspaper adviser. He was funny and he encouraged my journalist aspirations.

Finally Mrs. Zimmerman, my high school French teacher. She went by Madame ZZ. She was very Frenchy and fashionable. She had these cool lucite shoes that looked like Cinderella slippers and she always insisted we speak only French in her class. By the 12th grade, I was one of only about 7 kids who were still taking French at that level....Got lots of individual attention, even went to her apartment and sat on the floor for tea and jasmine incense, which I thought was tres cool at the time.

 
At 4:41 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Very cool, Donna. I especially liked the lucite shoes that looked like Cinderalla slippers. That made her come alive in my mind.

 
At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Jane Levesque said...

I've been lucky to have many wonderful teachers throughout all levels of school. There were some in grade school who challenged me and encouraged me. There were some in high school who made an impression, and in college there were some who taught with great enthusiasm.

For the record, I'd say my Spanish teachers (both high school and college) were the liveliest of the bunch. They always made class fun. A sweet little nun taught us prayers in Spanish in high school. I still remember the beginning of one from Teresa of Avila: "Nada te turba, nada te espanta." (Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you.) When I saw the English version in my church bulletin, I had to save it. I keep it on my fridge.

Whether you realized it or not, you were a teacher to me too, John. You believed in the shy college student who liked to write. Thank you for that.

 
At 11:55 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

You were easy to believe in, Jane, with that incredible work ethic. And I'm so very lucky to have you as a lifelong friend ever since. I feel blessed to still be friends with a number of my former interns from my days at John Carroll. But you were the best of the bunch.

How ironic that you should sound off on this topic, because I was just thinking that I hope you'll add your thoughts to the other string, about how writers can reinvent themselves via blogs. A big congratulations to you for recently beginning your own.

 
At 4:19 PM, Anonymous Jane Levesque said...

Wow. How do you blush online?
Now, on to that other string.

 
At 10:01 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I guess you blush online by using those silly emoticons, which I never use. Or, as you've done, you simply write it. Problem solved, Jane!

 

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