I have been teaching at the college level for over a decade. Before that, I taught high school. I have taught various aspects of film, writing and literature at a half-dozen institutions. I enjoy teaching. I had wanted to do it since I was in junior high. That said, there are times that I feel like I am going through the paces, just showing up. I can usually muster the enthusiasm to teach my subject (I always get high marks on student evaluations for enthusiasm), but there are days, sometimes weeks, maybe even semesters, where I can’t get into the groove, where I feel like I am doing the same thing over and over.
This semester so far had been one of those semesters, until yesterday. I am teaching a Media Writing class (script/screenwriting for Radio, TV, Film), which I generally enjoy teaching. I decided to compile some Youtube videos of screenwriters (Charlie Kaufman, Paul Haggis, Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee, Kevin Smith, etc.) to show my class for inspiration and instructional tidbits.
As we were watching, I started listening as a student instead of as a teacher, and started asking myself whether I practiced what these guys were preaching. The common threads are write, write, write, don’t fear criticism, take a chance. The usual writing advice, in some respects. But something switched on in me, and began wondering what I had to learn from this class, the class I am teaching. I often learn from preparing materials, doing research on lecture topics, and from class discussion, but I feel that hasn’t happened as much lately. After all, I am going through the same process many of these writing students are. I am a writer. I face some of the same obstacles and fears.
From now on, I am going to ask myself what I can learn from what I am teaching, and approach planning from that viewpoint. How might I expand my own horizons, take some chances, learn something, as my students learn on their own level? What have you learned from teaching? Do you approach your classroom from a similar viewpoint?