Spinello_Aretino_Exorcism_of_St_Benedict

I started this piece at the beginning of the summer but abandoned it because I didn’t want to jinx things.  Now summer is over, and things did become more challenging than they were when I first started this post, but the strength and resilience have remained.

So I finally finished my post about summer school , and now it’s summer again.

Well, you might be asking, how’s it going?  Are you students still triggering bizarre introspective journeys while you are supposed to be managing a debate on greenspace in Toronto?

And the answer is no.  Summer school is summer school — this pastiche of charming moments and, yes, sullen disregard.  The latter is still a challenge to me and I occasionally ask myself if I have exactly the right kind of personality  for teaching teenagers.  However, it doesn’t feel as personal any more.  At the moment, the dominant reaction is irritation rather than paralysis.

On another level too, I feel that something has been exorcised.  That idea:  I would hate to be a student in this class* — it’s not a comforting one.  It had been lingering at the edges of my consciousness throughout my teaching career.  I thought I could suppress it by refusing to confront it, but things don’t work that way.  This wraith generated a vague sense of guilt that undermined my confidence as a teacher.

Well, there was a point this term where I thought to myself, “I actually don’t care if you don’t like this class, because I know that what we are doing right now is exactly what I would have loved at your age.”

The feeling was short-lived, which is a good thing because a) I like anchovies and tapenade and garter snakes and maybe you don’t and b) you know, you really should care if the students don’t like the class.

Still, it was a moment of strength and pride.

So something happened to cauterize this psychic injury. Was it indeed a Jungian moment? Did I face the full embodiment of my greatest fear and in the act of confronting it vanquish it?

Or was it perhaps in the writing that the Jungian journey became real?  As I wrote that post over the intervening months, I found the story shaping itself in my mind.  Perhaps the actual classroom moment was just the seed of the experience.  Perhaps the true catharsis came later. Was it in articulating the emotions, in mapping the journey, that I truly came to understand and manage the conflicts going on inside me?

It’s getting a little chicken-or-the-egg here.  Short answer: things are better; evil teenage-self seems to have receded; summer school is done and part of me can’t wait for next July.

*serendipitously, I happened upon this piece by Hana Ticha while I was writing this post.

 

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