So I was talking about reflective practice and dealing with conflict situations in class, as a way of following this set of prompts, and I got to the phrase” muscular teaching.” I have adapted this from an expression that’s always intrigued me, “muscular Christianity.” Now I’m sure that I’m totally misinterpreting these words, but I’m assuming the right (along with Humpty Dumpty and certain authors we have assigned this term) to redefine my terms as I see fit.
Before I do that, however, I’d like to backtrack a little to my early teaching days. As I explained in an earlier post, my decision to embark on a teaching career was a purely emotional one. Although I’m a fairly logical person most of the time, this was a situation when I jumped in headfirst. I acted on instinct, and, in my early days as a teacher, this totally worked for me. I was surprised and delighted to find that most people found my classroom persona likeable. When I walked into a classroom people were happy to see me and receptive to what I had to say. Even my methodology was emotion-based. I would just go into the classroom, equipped solely with my love of the language, and the lesson would evolve naturally. I was Dogme before it was cool.*
The downside to this group hug was that it was dependent on a certain context. Teaching at Overland, I felt, well not quite like a rockstar, more like Sally Field winning for Places in the Heart (Google it! — it happened before most of you were born.) Outside of Overland, I was hopeless. I was just sending out my happy messages waiting to receive their happy replies, but some places just aren’t that happy. I was like a little Smartphone in a subway tunnel. I had no way of being in the classroom that didn’t depend on this kumbaya atmosphere.
Because I was so entranced with the magic of teaching, I had made no provisions for the times the magic didn’t work. I had few lesson salvaging strategies, and none that took into account a generally hostile environment. What’s more, I had no emotional reserves. My teaching practice involved offering my whole self up, and rejection devastated me.
For many years, my teaching career followed a cyclical pattern. Overland offered me a home base, somewhere I could evolve as a teacher, but I was curious about what was going on in the outside world. So I worked at Overland during the school year, and took positions at other schools in the summer. Although the experience I gained at these summer jobs was valuable, I often felt lost and disempowered** when I was actually working there. Returning to Overland in September felt like relaxing into a warm bath. Over the school year, the emotional bruises healed as my faith in myself was regenerated. By June, I was again ready to venture beyond my comfort zone.
*Before all you Dogme enthusiasts fire off your angry emails decrying my total ignorance…. Of forget it! It’s all publicity. Fire away!
** ok ok, Spellcheck! I know it’s a jargon word, and a particularly overused one at that. However, it is right here, right now, exactly the thing I want to say.