There is an alarming overlap between what I say to my students and what I’d say to my nemesis if I were a supervillain: “are you afraid?” The difference, fortunately, is that I ask this to my students after I’ve introduced a new concept or project instead of, say, when I’ve just stolen nuclear launch codes. I like to ask them publicly and individually if anything we’ve gone over is intimidating or alarming because I feel like it presupposes the fact that I know teachers–myself included–can introduce new things at a pace that seems quick or frightening to a student.
Back when there was still an authority in my life strong enough to make me do math, I wish someone had asked me if I was afraid. The answer would have been a trembling “yes” followed by a detailed description of some particularly distressing dreams in which a different limb of mine was cut off every time I got a question wrong on a test.
Questions, I think, are the most important thing a teacher should think about. Questions for their students and questions that might come from their students. I try to anticipate what could be confusing or alarming or just difficult when I’m in my classroom, and I think I do a decent job of it.
But I think I’m pretty shitty at it in other contexts. There is exactly one time and place in which I am confident, and that is my job. Outside of my role as a teacher, I tend to be a bit quiet, pretty weird, and stuck in my head. I have a tendency to internalize everything which, when coupled with my genuinely dreadful memory, amounts to someone who is not too communicative and also cannot remember what would have been worth communicating. I am a goldfish with emotional issues.
But the problem continues even further in my writing. As a blogger, I write a lot about myself, the things I think about, the tiny rants I go on when I see something unforgivably stupid, complaints, or just observations. But all that doesn’t amount to really telling anyone anything. I think of myself as a really terrible machine, but I only let people get to know the really terrible things this machine creates. That’s a pretentious way of explaining that there is a difference between knowing what someone would say and knowing why they’d say it, and I don’t offer many explanations.
So I want to do something I’ve never done before, or at least not in this context. I want to ask for questions, about me, the blog, or anything else.
If there’s anything you want to know, leave a comment. I’ll try my best to answer genuinely.
PS: I’m leaving this post up indefinitely, and I’ll respond to any comments as they come.