Monday, September 24, 2012

Why Can't I Honestly Say That I Want To Teach?

I don't know when I'm going to feel clear about this teaching thing, though it seems like what had been an insoluble knot of vague conundrums is beginning to break into more distinct forms.

I like, even need, to have a class to teach to feel happy, more than any other activity or job, because I get to share what I'm uniquely interested in, which encourages me to develop it more, and because I have an enthusiasm for giving to others valuable and important perspectives that I hear more and more often are appreciated and well-received.

And yet, I still don't believe it. I still doubt and am extremely sensitive to how my skills and insights are received, to the slightest perceived drop in interest or perceived frown of disapproval. I still assume guilt or shame or feel frustration about how I share what I learn and what I see. Am I too aggressive, rigid, or extreme? Do I want to be liked too many different kinds of people? Am I still too angry for polite company and successful interviews, do I feel like I disregard others' perspectives or sensitivities more than I wish to? How about my own?

The enthusiasm I can often deliver in a lecture comes with doubt that feels healthy to some extent and, in another form, clearly detrimental. Humility and honesty, good - overly critical view of myself and others, bad. I'm pretty sure by now that part of that is just how I do things - how I learn by experimenting with different attitudes, different approaches, different ideas, some of which are more acceptable and appreciated by certain groups than by others. I'm beginning to catch myself when I'm being overly perfectionist and idealistic about this issue, but I still really don't like it when people toss the whole thing aside and tell me not to worry about how I do. It feels too much like how I've seen some others in my life handle things, without enough depth or attention to detail to do something well enough to get it done and enjoy it at the same time. I feel like I still have some lessons to learn in humility and care-fulness myself. But I shouldn't try to solve that by being hard on myself, should I now? It doesn't work. Just know that when I am being critical or crazily focused about something, it has always been with a very good and innocent intention that suffers from poor training and years of frustrations.

I believe deeply (while not being entirely convinced, at the same time) that I am holding back a lot of frustrated feelings, which clearly detract from my interactions with others - students, administrative folks, friends...or at least make my own being stressed, anxious, and lonely. The issue - how I learn how to handle myself more skillfully so that I have the opportunities to teach and socialize that I say that I want, while also being more honest about how I feel so that I can express myself more authentically, more confidently, more fully. It's like working on two things at opposite ends of a spectrum: being more honest, less afraid, more trusting of a deeper, internal process, while also trying to be more skillfully diplomatic and emotionally aware in my interactions with others.

It's hard to teach, interview, or prepare a course proposal, let alone wait to hear the outcome, while all this is going off in one's head. While there is the issue of being unpleasantly surprised by negative emotions I wasn't aware of when sitting alone at my computer assembling these nice slides and handouts, thinking how awesome it's going to be, of not knowing how to handle them, find a suitable outlet, a positive way to express them, I'm starting to feel more satisfied with my delivery and less driven to make it perfect. That is a good thing. Yes, I'm practically comfortable with that! And getting better with the proposals, that is, when I get around to them, I mean, but maybe it needs to take its time to work through. When the anxiety and tension builds over getting a class to teach, those negative emotions and doubt and shame are much more likely to come settle around me.

So, it's not the kind of basic, surface thing that bothers me as much anymore, though I have to keep at it, of course. It's just that I have this sense of not being as connected or as truly conscientious as the teachers I deeply admire - those for whom teaching is a calling and an attitude, and not just a job they grumblingly accept. I don't know if I'll ever feel that I can comfortably own the role of "teacher," no matter how much skill and panache I develop as a researcher or lecturer. Sometimes I even think I'm just stuck in my parent's unfilled dreams, but then I look at my natal chart and see that, no, there is definitely reasons for you to want to teach. And I fantasize that if someone were to believe in me and my abilities, give me a break I truly needed and was ready for, that I would become open to hearing criticism that would help me become the really good teacher that I think I want to be in life. That I would believe I could do it. Believe in myself. I suppose there is also an issue about accepting the imperfect, less idealistic, but more practical routine of life and not getting so caught up in these ambitions and aspirations, so that I could have more real world successes. In the meantime, there is still that sense of being not yet satisfied with something I need to "get" about teaching, and about myself, while already going beyond the requirements and expectations of the people I teach or teach for.
How is this resolved?

No comments:

Post a Comment