05 February 2009

"If like a crab you could go backwards…”

Old habits are hard to break.  I’ve spent the past week freelance teaching at the Shakespeare Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon. Working on Shakespeare, debate and argumentation with groups of 13-16 year old GSCE students from parts of Birmingham and the Black Country (English West Midlands).

When offered, I jumped at the chance. I love Shakespeare, and I love sharing Shakespeare with others. And so, how did I fare, on this, my return to the classroom in x-number of months?

Well, to be honest, it just felt like “work.” That is not to say that I had no joy in it at all. I did enjoy myself, but, I was completely and utterly drained even after just my first day “back in the grind,” as my friend in Philadelphia would say. Have I missed it? No. Not at all. But it is like riding a bicycle. You never, ever forget how to do it.

There is a “teacher” switch that flips on in your head, that throws you into “high-energy overdrive.” And it is precisely this  “up-up-up-motivational-mode” that starts to get a bit old after a while. Last night in the pub, our friend, Diane, said to me: “Gosh, I can’t imagine what it must have been like, working and teaching like that flat out everyday in New York.” And as I think about it now, neither can I. The stamina, the energy, the madness. These things, I do not miss.

I have become quite comfortable with my simple writerly life here in rural South Warwickshire. It is funny to me that not so long ago, I was weeping for my ‘career wardrobe’ languishing in my new country closet. But now that I have started to take myself seriously as a writer, I cannot think of being or doing anything else.  Everything else is a just tedium, a means to an end, a distraction.

But, there is something more.  Of course, it is nice to have the extra dosh/cash that guest lecturing provides, but it provides something else, too, does it not? Dare I say it: Respectability. When I take on these little Shakespeare stints, I’m not just a “stay-at-home-writer,” I’m a “Part-Time Lecturer and stay-at-home- writer.”  However, the delusion is my own, and really, and I am fooling no one but myself.

Respectability, what does it mean? Why are we as human beings so concerned about how other see us, rate and/or approve of us?

One day this week, I had lunch with Tracey, a young teacher from Sandwell. We had a lot in common, both being graduates from Birmingham University’s School of English. “I’m a writer,” I explained when she asked about my career. “I’m a writer, and a Shakespeare scholar.” I shocked myself. This was the first time I had spoken these words, in this order. In the past, I have always put “scholar” first.

Tracey was fascinated. “How interesting, “she said, “You know, there are just some people who defy ‘the boxes’, y’know, you can’t place them in a box? You are definitely one of those people.”

May be she's right.



Random Thoughts said...

I recently saw myself through new lens and realized I am that girl who is never home. I work crazy hours so I can complete my schooling and work my tail off at my job. I want to be successful (mostly so I can maintain employment, although I have no fears of job loss even in this tough economy). I have 15 months until graduation, 11 months until my life will most likely change greatly and I can't wait to be the girl who has time for work and home again. I love the balance of the two (not trying to balance them both while also being a student).

Shes not From Yorkshire said...

Great post about defying "boxes" in a career. I teach too, and I used to hear this horrible phrase that went "Those who can, can. And those who can't, teach..." That used to drive me mad. I refuse to believe that and plan to continue doing both really well! Sounds like you are too.