Let this be a lesson to us all

So, that was fun. And a bit scary and nerve-wracking. And challenging. In other words, a good exercise. I always appreciate the chance to teach, even if it makes me a little self-conscious. I will admit, I originally chose my story (“I.D.” by Joyce Carol Oates) because I had been moved when I read it and felt I had quite a bit to say about it by way of analysis. Then, when it came time to think about teaching the story, I panicked a bit. It seemed too long a piece, with too many moving parts. The most challenging aspect was finding a way to teach a subset of the story’s content in 15 minutes and have there be some kind of coherent exploration, but at the same time, keep the discussion and activities open enough to student interpretation (i.e., not just say, “here’s what the story means”).

When we first studied Blau’s book this semester, I found it very interesting. I liked some of the concrete techniques highlighted in it, even if his blow-by-blow descriptions of their execution were somewhat idealized. I especially liked the practice of “pointing” because it seems a way to have students focus on what is meaningful to them in a story. However, because “I.D.” is such a detailed and relatively un-short short story, I toyed with the idea of “focused pointing” to help direct the traffic of student commentary.  Again, I was unsure if this was a good idea. Would it interfere too much with student interpretation? Was I telling them how to think about the story? After trying it in the lesson, I like the idea of focused pointing to help “organize” thought, not to sort it into neat little boxes of interpretation.

However, throughout the semester, I’ve been wondering: How detached should the teacher be from the interpretive activities of a class? Are we mostly facilitators? Do we put stuff out there, and just let everybody have at it? Certainly we act a bit like traffic cops, overseeing discussion so the group doesn’t get hung up on a question and so everyone gets their say. But what place does the interpretation of the teacher have in the classroom? To what extent do we share our own acumen, education and breadth of experience, and interpret along with the students?