Mired in a challenging basketball season, quickly slipping behind in both planning and scoring assingments, I haven't felt like the greatest teacher around. I haven't been able to teach my C-Team players how to shoot a basketball well while being defended; my Read 180 students who have been in the program for two years now, haven't quite figured out the daily routine--I must not have taught it to them in September of 2005; my seniors haven't demonstrated the level of writing on our class blog that satisfies our goals--another example of how I must be struggling as a conveyor of information and expectations.
Today, I tried to convince my seniors how an essay due before the Winter break and one due after the break is necessary for the goals of my Pre-College English class, the only responses I could get were ones of irritation and "I don't get this; both essays are the same." But had the students listened to my words, they would have understood the extreme difference between a 2-3 page character analysis on any character from Othello, and a 3-5 page reader response essay in which the writer explains how Othello fits the AP description of a superior work of literature: one that creates a healthy confusion between pleasure and disquietude.
One student wanted more information; she seemed irritated at my explanation in class. I patiently showed the differences between the two as another student, her friend, waited to leave. When I finished, the patiently waiting student looked up from whatever it was that she was filing away and said, "Mr. McNamar, you're a good teacher."
At my wedding, I had a prayer read that is found in Frederick Buechner's book The Hungering Dark. It begins, "LORD, Catch us off guard today. Surprise us with some moment of beauty or pain so that for at least a moment we may be startled into seeing that you are with us here inall your splendor, always and everywhere, barely hidden, beneath, beyond, within this life we breath." Today, I was caught off guard by a moment of beauty. Timing.