Ruby Slippers

I remember growing up that in certain classes certain teachers would kind of let us not worry so much about walking the straight and narrow all the time in class and worrying about the test. Those teachers would often tell us stories and just somehow make the class more interesting than the other classes.

Some of those classes even seemed almost improvised – not planned. We never quite knew what was going to happen. It was a very different feeling than those classes in which we worked in a book all the time.

But as I went through school and later became a teacher myself, I saw less and less of those kinds of teachers. The classes, those that I took in high school especially, and my own classes too when I was teaching AP French, certainly had nothing spontaneous or improvised about them. If anything unexpected or spontaneous welled up inside of me, I quickly squelched it. I was a serious teacher, as per the businessman in Le Petit Prince:

…je possède les étoiles, puisque jamais personne avant moi n’a songé à les posséder.

– Ça c’est vrai, dit le petit prince. Et qu’en fais-tu?

-Je les gère. Je les compte et je les recompte, dit le businessman. C’est difficile. Mais je suis un homme sérieux!

…I own the stars, because no one before me has ever thought about owning them.

That’s true, said the Little Prince. And what do you do with them? 

I sort them. I count them and I recount them, said the businessman. It’s hard work. But I am a serious man! (Ch. 13)

There was always a kind of grating feeling in my heart when I taught those classes like the businessman counted his stars. It was always like I wanted my students to learn it but they didn’t want to learn it. It was like the people in the room and what they wanted didn’t seem to really matter – only the content mattered.

Now that kind of teaching seems to be steaming along the railroad tracks of modern education at full speed. From time to time, however, that silly, undirected teacher that I had hidden from my students so often during my career, would raise his silly head. I would think of something cool and go there with the kids. It happened about once a year. I had fun teaching my kids about once a year.

I always did what I thought was right professionally. Over the years that stifling extended into my life outside the classroom. I really completely forget how to laugh in my classroom. But now, because of stories, I am rediscovering through stories that silly part of myself that was I thought was so “bad” to allow into my teaching.

Because of stories, I am now reparenting myself. That is no small event. I was wrong to think that my life should be all serious and everything, and that how I did on a test as a child, or how my students did on one after I became a teacher, was the goal of education.

Now I know that the goal of education is only to learn how to laugh, that all the rest will follow and the gains from laughter in my French classes will far exceed any made in that old way. Isn’t it funny? All I had to do was click my ruby slippers to return home.



6 thoughts on “Ruby Slippers”

  1. The things I remember most vividly from school are the feelings and the weird moments and inside jokes.
    I am excited because I think I just figured out how to post this with a picture…let’s see if it works…

  2. My favorite was my 4th grade teacher reading to us as we rested after lunch. I forget the actual story but I did enjoy more fiction because of it.

    Today, I hosted a former student who since grew up and became a Spanish teacher. She is just starting out. My colleagues and I are trying to guide her twd T/CI and she recently attended a Blaine Ray workshop.
    Anyway, as the 4th graders came in and I introduced her, I asked them to describe to her what we do in our Spanish classes and what it feels like.
    One sporty-sport kid commented, “It’s not really even a regular Spanish class. It’s more of a drama and acting class!”
    That comment made my year! Perhaps some legacy teachers would be heartbroken by such an honest admission! Perhaps I would have too a few years ago!
    But the fact that he perceived our class as one of theatrics (I have tons o’props and costume items) rather than of a ‘regular’ language class? Priceless.
    It’ll be a long time – when legacy methods are a mere distant memory – before anyone I admire will want to be known a a regular Spanish teacher with a regular class….

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