What does teaching say about the condition of my soul?

In the middle of my Day 2 NaNoWriMo draft, MacBook takes a nosedive. I took to the sorbet and said to heck with teaching. After all, it’s the dessert that matters. Okay. So the title question is posed by Parker Palmer for our upcoming department retreat by way of our retreat organizers. Generally, I don’t mind such intrusive questions. Today, well, let’s just say that teaching online doesn’t quite have the same payload of satisfaction. I mean how many times can you answer the same question, Is Monday’s homework due this Monday or next? with grace after you’ve sent an email to all clarifying that very point for this and subsequent weeks? Jesus might say 70 times seven. Living in Las Vegas, I’d improvise and say, feelin lucky, Punk? At least that would be my response if it didn’t have to be written down and remain a virtual reality for time or digits immemorial.

The fact of the matter is I can put off this inconvenient truth no longer. I am not cut out for writing. I do all the things a writer does – I teach writing, I procrastinate, I entertain more ideas than I can possibly jot down in several lifetimes, I wear black 90% of the time and clean other people’s houses, and still can’t seem to come up with a line worth keeping toward a novel, novella or bumper-sticker for that matter. In short, I do every writerly thing I can think of except write.

The day started off promisingly enough. I slept late, saw sister and niece off to work and school, cleared a writing space near an electrical outlet, spent a couple hours in my Bible, another couple hours on the phone with hubby and still couldn’t bring myself to face the task of recalling any of the teachable moments formerly deemed noteworthy. I even deliberately, it turns out now, misplaced the tracking number for the near Birkenstocks I’d ordered and had forwarded, so I couldn’t spend time stalking my package as it makes its way across two state lines, UPS ground.

Eliminating all the possible distractions – did I mention I’ve eaten a record five times today? – I have come face to face with the facts: Teaching cannot make one do anything. Yes, it can reinforce or interrupt the mental conditioning we’re subjected to on a daily basis both in and outside the classroom. And yes, it can give you tools with which to carve out a life almost worth living, but it cannot enhance a soul that is not bent on transformation. So, what it says about the condition of my soul is this, in short: I did nothing to sway the vote in today’s election, and so deserve the level or lack of commitment to teaching and learning that results.


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