I counted down the end in sincerely slow rhythm of one number a year (spoken publically aloud 5,4,3,2,1, (formal nod, almost a bow, exits; does not look back).
My direction to the next level was chosen to try my ideas with a different demographic. It allowed me to academically and psychologically expand and extend the courses. Ultimately, Myth became Source Studies became Classics of Western Lit became Mythic Modernism.
I let drama go while enacting dialog and voice excerpts from outstanding and diverse authors and let students have a croak at it themselves.
To Hell and Back – ancient and modern – blended classics from Goethe, Milton, and Dante with modern takes around similar themes. (I drew on the Christian background of many of the students at Marist college as easy entry into some of these motifs. They didn’t have to start from scratch (sic). And I added music – classical and gospel, country and rock – which also helped.
But my specifics aren’t relevant here. That you can do this – spin a piece with effectiveness and style, is. Sometimes for sections, it can sizzle. And it can be modified and extended dramatically over time. Keep notes and revise. Then reshape, retitle, enjoy the course. In response to one Hell and Back offering half the students wrote: this was the best course I have ever taken.
I also tried my hand at Teacher Ed, to pass on what I had been working on. Buddha they say went up the mountain to meditate and find nirvana, then had to decide after (was it seven) years if he would stay there or return to teach the people. This is what is vital about the sabbatical. We need time to think, breathe, reflect, recover, start over… focus and refocus. If they aren’t offered, take leaves of absence. Summer vacations are a must. But by the time I got to college, the schooling systems were ever more demanding and the openness to new ideas on process insistently under attack.
I proposed three courses to constitute a masters program for teachers at Marist College. The department accepted, but they wanted research methodology included, and I was reluctant. Correlational statistics as proof offer little proof of anything. Mostly it’s about shaping the questions on the one hand and having access to large numbers of participants on the other. And if the proof wasn’t there (grammar mastery didn’t improve writing in 200 of the 204 studies I researched at Berkeley,) they ignored it. That is, they, whoever they are, didn’t pass it on in Teacher Ed. I was swimming against the tide, but it was fun. I divided the topics into learning theory, curriculum planning, and system analysis.
I also supervised teachers at about 30 different secondary schools. Finding them was something of a strain. No gps back then. The supervising teacher made all the difference. How about the three best unquote teachers in a department get together with potential student teacher candidates and offer a brief description of their methodologies and the students choose which seem to be the best match. I’ve never seen it done that way. Might save all kinds of hassles.
I worked at Marist for 12 years and then found a gig at SUNY New Paltz. The best fit since the alternative school. Wonderful to work there. particularly in English…though I did do some graduate Ed courses and supervised the English Teacher seminar when the usual Prof went on sabbatical. But then back to literature, which was always where I belonged. Not because I loved literary criticism, but because I loved what literature presented to me.
What one should teach has little to do with what one is credentialed to teach. Learning is ongoing; combinations and syntheses occur. Twelve years passed and it was time to move on again . . . to return to the mountain. To consider and reconsider, to let the country absorb what No Child Left Behind would mean…that childhood itself would be left behind was the obvious answer. For children laugh and play and learn that way . . . and joyous teachers offer support. And encouragement. (I like that word). And Permission.
When I got to SUNY, I was asked to teach . . . freshmen (sic) composition.