29 August 2007

Why I teach

I teach because there is no real living to be made as a poet these days. I teach because my mother taught, and three of my aunts taught, and my grandmothers were teachers of a different kind, and it is how I process the world.

Today I asked 20 young people in my classroom, all under 30, all over 18, to name one female supreme court justice.

Twenty Americans of voting age.

No one could even come up with part of either name. Now I know there have only been two, and perhaps when I was in college....no, I know that's not true. I have known the name Sandra Day O'Connor since she was appointed in 1981. I was 8. Ruth Bader Ginsberg missed an awful lot of limelight being second. But they both have nice long names, and I was so hopeful that at least part of one of them would come up in class.

This is almost as bad as last semester, when I asked three separate sections of students, totalling 75 people, to tell me the year the Civil War ended. Someone got as close as 1850, which is pretty close, considering many thought it was around the time Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot.

At any rate, I teach because I want people to know things. I want them to know why it's important, and how good it feels to have context. Of course, I can lead the horses to water, but I can't hold their heads under and make them drink: so I try to be satisfied just getting them close to the water and hoping they figure it out.

In other news, my latest attempt at an extreme closeup. I love wood. I love how it ages, how it changes color. As I was putting these together, the oldest one crumbled a bit in my fingers. I love how that feels.

Next spring we'll set up a little clothesline for the daughter. It's high time she learned to do some chores.

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