“What is a student?”
I’m placing this question at the forefront of my post so that I stay on track unlike my last post. Here I feel like I will reach into the esoteric realm no matter. I’m starting to wonder if I have read too much, and now all of my thinking can directly relate to something/someone I read somewhere. Yesterday I was driving down to Legoland, and I realized that I really can quote obscure Marxist theorists at random if I need them to make some point on Twitter. It has been thanks to my being a student, and a student of Dr. Carlson’s no less.
So there it is, I’m pulling from another text I’ve read to answer this—somewhere far from this last Winter in Rowan’s 657. We read a piece by Annie DiPardo, and another that I can’t recall the name of, and both left me very much aware that we are all students—everyone, of life. Sure, I threw down a somewhat philosophical cliché, but truly, we are.
The older I get, I begin to wonder: do we get to a point where we can actually say to ourselves (with conviction, mind you): “That’s it! I know all I need. I’ve learned it all!” (whatever “it all” is) I think I would seriously worry about an individual who could say this.
That being said, my status as an eternal student comes to me forcefully as I constantly face the fact that I am teaching students. I have woken up every morning somewhere between 4 and 5 am because I cannot stop thinking about what/how/and who I’m teaching. These thoughts wake me no matter how tired I am. They obsess inside me because my passion overwhelms my senses. Had I truly felt that I was in some teacher role of authority, I don’t think I’d worry over my days in class like I do, constantly trying to improve my methods.
These methods completely depend upon my students. What obsesses me is that I teach them the things I feel matter in college: agency, confidence, knowledge of themselves as writers, knowledge of the expectations of them from the institution, and the lines they can walk in-between. Like Mary so aptly told me once: “You cannot give agency.” Her statement shocked me because I hadn’t realized that my own utterance displayed my inability to translate what it is I really feel I am doing.
Of course we cannot give agency. But do our students know they have it? Perhaps I must remind them. This is what I try to do every day in class. Am I doing it well? Doubtful. I am trying, however, and this is what calms me when I get to obsessing. I’m studying my teacher self; more importantly: I’m studying my students.
This is not in the objective sense, because I don’t feel I take much objectively these days (not even sure that’s possible after all of the theory I’ve absorbed). I literally ask them what they want. I read the texts in this class searching for methods that enable them to remember they’re humans with voices, citizens capable of employing speech to make meaning, and I fail with flourish. So I know what not to do, mostly.
As I’m on the cusp of having my students turn in their first essay answering the question: “Who Am I?”, I may have a better grasp of who they are, as students. Me, I’m gonna keep studying.
“What is a student?”