Thursday, February 14, 2013

Colliding Worlds

There was a great Seinfeld episode where George claimed, after his girlfriend met Jerry and Elaine, the his "worlds were colliding." I had a similar experience last week, when my daughter showed me a comic about what authors mean and what annoying English teachers ("like you, Dad") think the author means.

You've probably seen these comics before. To my 14-year-old daughter, whose lowest grade is a B+ in English (much to the chagrin of her father, who chairs the damned department), the comic (bad language and all) is hysterical.

Hyperbole? Sure. A smattering of truth? Hmmm.

Admittedly, the poster gave me pause. Am I one of those teachers? No, probably not. Yet the joke speaks to my duel life as author and literature teacher. It's a delicate balancing act. Many find it troublesome; some of the most talented writers I studied with in graduate school found their own creativity stifled when they started teaching – no free time and too much time spent reading truly great writers to feel good about their own rough drafts.

It is why I compartmentalize my world. The writer stays home when the teacher puts on the jacket and tie and heads to the classroom. The writer says the opening paragraph in Steinbeck's "Chrysanthemums" is heavy handed and too obviously symbolic. The teacher points the symbol out to the students and asks them what it might represent.

 It can be a tough balancing act, but it is necessary and one I find fulfilling.


Charlotte Hinger said...

This why I told one of my daughters who has a double degree in English and Journalism--to go to the English Department for the education and the Journalism Department to get rid of the nonsense.

Hannah Dennison said...

John ... I just love your sense of humor. I really struggled during HIgh School because everything our English teacher gave us to read was dissected into bits. Great post!

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