"On Teaching"

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"On Teaching"
by John Steinbeck

It is customary for adults to forget how hard and dull school is. The learning by memory all the basic things one must know is the most incredible and unending effort. Learning to read is probably the most difficult and revolutionary thing that happens to the human brain and if you don't believe that watch an illiterate adult try to do it. School is not so easy and it is not for the most part very fun, but then, if you are very lucky, you may find a teacher. Three real teachers in a lifetime is the very best of luck. I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.

My three had these things in common. They all loved what they were doing. They did not tell -- they catalyzed a burning desire to know. Under their influence, the horizons sprung wide and fear went away and the unknown became knowable. But most important of all, the truth, that dangerous stuff, became beautiful and precious.   

I found this passage in a search for sources for my Learning Theory & Portfolio Development education course. I know, I probably shouldn't be up this late, but I got in a groove of schoolwork and couldn't stop. First of all, I really do enjoy John Steinbeck. He writes some brilliant stuff. My favorite of which was probably East of Eden, though the most famous is Grapes of Wrath, or Mice of Men (The latter I haven't had the pleasure of reading yet.)

My favorite of his work, East of Eden, is simply wonderful. I read it on my own one summer, a number of years ago, and couldn't put it down. It deals of the nature of good and evil, set in the Salinas Valley region of California during the time of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s - which is described in extensive, intricate detail. Essentially, the story follows two families - the Hamiltons and the Trasks. The first, reprising stories of Steinbeck's own family, and the latter, reprising those of the Biblical story of Adam and his children, Cain and Abel (echoed by Caleb and Aron in the novel). I'm not going to get in to much more detail, for it is definitely worth it to read yourself.... The following verse is the inspiration for much of the novel itself - in full reading of the text, the Biblical parallels are clear.

And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the Land of Nod, on the east of Eden.
--Genesis 4:16

Back to the previous subject: the above passage is ultimately what I hope to become as a teacher. It is necessary to have a loving and passionate teacher in order for the students to become respectable, responsible, and knowledgable members of society. Why? Well, because, this is where they learn the basics. These values and lessons learned in elementary school are going to be built upon year by year, therefore a solid foundation set in active teaching and learning is necessary. It creates/molds students with a basis and means to grow as individuals. If you want to know more, just ask me what my teaching philosophy is. It's really wonderful to be able to extensively to explore this in class! Also, if you want to know even more - ask me about the movie Matilda, or even the paper I wrote about it last semester. It is beautiful (The movie is, I mean! In it's own, inspiring way!).

Many people may not realize it, but what Steinbeck says about a true teacher being an artist is, well, very true - I read about it in studies about learning styles and processes each week. It is an art in how you are shaping, as Steinbeck says, the human mind and spirit - to become productive members of society. To become knowledgable, and passionate members of society. There is something much more deep, and meaningful about why I chose this area of study and profession, and it's a process I'm coming to terms with, though a lot of it has shone through in these late studies. And John Steinbeck beautifully captures this trail.

Ultimately, John Steinbeck has always been one of my favorite authors, alongside Ralph Waldo Emerson, and C.S. Lewis, among others of course!!

Learning about learning is awesome. It's even better when you're taking a Learning Theory course, as well as a Psychology course, at the same time. It's even better than that when you are at a school that instills Biblical values and teachings into lessons and material for each week (I've been using these words so much in assignments and discussions lately!). Love love love Liberty!

Today, I am thankful for...
Day 8: I am thankful for having the opportunity to attend Texas A&M University - although my time was cut short! - and I am grateful for being a part of such amazing traditions (Midnight Yell, Silver Taps, Muster, Bonfire Remembrance, Maroon Out, The Big Event, and getting my Aggie Ring - September!! among much more!), as well as an inspiring fellowship (Aggies in Mission - AIM). Also, thank you A&M for allowing me to meet my husband while bringing me closer to God at the same time (AIM)!
Day 9: I am thankful for our furry children, Trigger and Scruffy. We love our kitty and miss our puppy to pieces. It feels wonderful that we took them both in - Trigger as a stray living underneath a house at a month old, and Scruffy from the shelter, found wandering the dangerous streets of Bryan. I don't know what I'd do without animals - especially these two!!! They bring us so much comfort and happiness.
Day 10: I am thankful for having such a strong conviction to be a teacher. After much second guessing, contemplation, and prayer (as well as direction from Marshall) it feels great to know that I am going in the right direction, and that I made the right decision for my future career. And, if I ever find myself in doubt...I confirm these feelings whenever I watch Matilda - Miss Honey is so inspiring! I hope one day I can be like her.... And my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Haun, my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Carter, and my 8th grade science teacher, Mrs. Look. ---That's three real teachers! I guess I'm pretty lucky then, by what John Steinbeck said :)

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