Saturday, May 23, 2009

Teaching under Tension

I haven't written much lately because I've been teaching an intersession course, which means I left for work at 4 PM and got home at 10:30 PM and basically wanted to curl up under my bed and never come out again. This is not because the class was bad -- it was a modern american drama course with an interesting class roll of former students and a few new firecrackers -- but because the people that keep me sane were denied me during this period.  I couldn't see friends or family, and I saw Andrew about 10 minutes each day if we were lucky. 

The class started off as intense just because of my schedule. 

The tension increased when I introduced the reading list. My students read The Emperor Jones, W;t, Doubt, Angels in America, Streetcar Named Desire, and Crimes of the Heart. Despite that I told them on day one that modern drama is by its nature reactionary and at times outlandish -- that it remains important because it addressed taboo topics concerning race, sex, and gender -- my students were still shocked to read about graphic gay sex or child molestation.  

There were several times during the class that the room got uncomfortable, not because the students said anything incendiary, but because they were discussing possibilities they'd rather not entertain (such as the idea that gender is learned rather than innate).  It was an odd experience: though the students were comfortable with each other and with me, just about every play made people shift uneasily in their seats.  

Is tension necessary for growth? Have you learned something if you've been introduced to an idea that made you feel a little out of sorts? 

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