Preaching and Teaching: Performance Art

As I stared up into the dark the other morning, up before the alarm again, and already dwelling on the coming day and the need to fit everything on my to-do list into the day, my mind turned to the idea that good teachers and good preachers have the same skill set: an ability to energize and motivate their particular congregation into action, to move them from point A to point B with as little resistance as possible and to guide them to a higher plane of existence: enlightenment.

Monotone droning doesn't do that.

No, like a good Baptist or Pentecostal preacher, if I want action, I have to be dynamic and energized. Have you ever tried to whip a group of 25 students into a frenzy of excitement over writing papers? It's no easy task, and to do it class after class, well, if preachers had to preach session after session, they might wear out of the righteous power of spreading the word.

The word--words--strung into tightly constructed works of art, that's the dream. Competent, effective communication skills are the goal. It's easy to forget when you spend your spare time online in a group of people who write to communicate for fun that not everyone finds the endeavor rewarding. Spending time with students who are intimidated by the very idea of constructing those words on the blank word document is an immersion in the reality that words, ideas, and the organization of those ideas into words, into paragraphs, is incredibly intimidating to many people.

And that's a shame. Words open the world, and what a world it is. What a world it can be, if only. So I spend my days trying to give students "if onlys" in as energetic and entertaining a way as possible, while letting them know that panic, fear, and mental roadblocks don't have to be the way that English classes are approached.

Something's wrong with our educational system if it churns out students afraid to try, resistant to effort, and certain their teachers don't care about them succeeding. If preachers managed their congregations that way, they'd be out of a job.

Maybe if teaching was viewed as a sacred trust, and the resources were provided to make sure that teachers had the opportunity to restore and feed their souls, and parents viewed teachers like preachers, there to assist and help, maybe so many students wouldn't come to us closed off, shut down, and resistant (and I mean that, not just for college teachers, but all the way down to the beginning of school).


farmwifetwo said...

I had a really long reply written while I was waiting for the youngest's bus.

But... since the school system is a HUGE soapbox of mine... let's just not go there.

I do have one son that refuses to read for fun unless the school tells him he has to for home reading...

melbo said...

As someone who has never been able to go a day without reading or putting pen to paper, I get where you are coming from.

You have also touched on something I feel very strongly about yet find very difficult to articulate. Let's just say I wish kids would understand that reading opens doors. The more you read, the easier it becomes, the better your self-expression will become. You will pick up on grammar and spelling because you're looking at it more often. The world will open up in front of you.

Both of mine love books although they can't yet read. THe little one is a "reader" ... as soon as he could sit up, he would hold a book open in front of his face for hours. It's just in him. Lucky child. I hope this instinct survives the school years intact!

Karen V. said...

You must be really worn out if you are teaching your classes in the method of a Baptist minister! It is very sad that these kids are afraid of writing. Like Melbo, writing has always been part of my life from a very young age. And I couldn't agree more that the more you read, the better writer you become. The two are inextricably intertwined. I hope you are finding just the right amount of "preaching" to inspire them to want to write... Encouragement is so important!

KWombles said...

I've noticed with mine, who all love to read, that they often become resistant when I tell them it's time to read. Perhaps part of it's just regular-old not wanting to do something because they've been told to, and this continues into the classroom with my students.

Successful students learn to overcome this feeling of ambivalence.

And Karen, yup, I am--some days I have to come home and nap--there's this incredible adrenaline rush to teaching (well, at least teaching like preaching), that when it's over, I crash. :-)

Aspergirl Maybe said...

My son is just now finding out that it can be fun to read. He has recently begun gravitating towards graphic novels (previously it was only nonfiction).

I love my pastor because he talks like we are in a big living room and he is just sharing what's on his heart. He is so encouraging and nurturing. I think he was always like this to an extent, but going through leukemia several years ago seems to have really shaped the way he communicates.