Through the eyes of my students

Blaine Fontana @ Sycamore Review

Paula Marantz Cohen rethinks the teaching of literature @ The American Scholar.
Although I have been teaching for almost three decades, I feel I have only recently begun to teach. For years, I was doing what was expected: preparing detailed syllabi, grading piles of papers, and pontificating in front of a class about the importance of the subject matter that I had assigned. I thought I was teaching, and some of my students thought so too. But they were the diligent, receptive ones, and lately I’ve come to feel that diligent, receptive students don’t need teachers. The ones who do are the ones I used to gripe about: those who went directly to the Spark Notes, who didn’t proofread their papers, and who gave rote responses in class. They were the students whom I traditionally wrote off as not belonging in college—or at least not in my classroom.Why did my thinking change? I suppose the precipitating factor came when I had children of my own. There is nothing more humbling to one’s self-esteem, more profoundly disruptive of one’s established worldview, than children—those creatures who know nothing of convention or tact, who speak truth to power (that is, their parents) because they haven’t yet learned to pretend or been cowed into doubting themselves. My children, though like me in some respects, were unlike me in others, and I eventually came to see myself through the lens of their difference. Their stubborn individuality forced me to acknowledge otherness in a new way and to question some of my most cherished assumptions. Watching them develop their tastes and interests spurred me to recall how I developed the tastes and interests that define more