On several occasions, Tim talked about how we were problably lovers of literature growing up and that we were nerds who knew and loved grammar. Tim also talked about how we loved in class lit discussions and this was the impetus for us to teach.
Here's a dirty secret: I hated Enlgish growing up and I almost flunked out of high school.
Growing up, English and science were my two least favorite subjects. I despised writing in English class. I never understood the "rules" of grammar and always felt like moron in class. I used such tricks of the trade as miniscule handwriting and passive voice to get by. I thought my teachers were mean spirited old people (most of my teachers retired by the time I finished freshman year of college). The selections sucked, and the in-class discussions sucked even more. (To this day I still hate "Lord of the Flies.")
In all fairness, I was an avid reader growing up. I had a voracious appitite. I think I read 40 books one summer (2nd grade, I think). I enjoyed talking about books with my friends. However, in class discussions of books and short stories were an entirely different matter. I remember answering pointless questions at the end of each story. I remember feeling that the stories themselves were more pointless than the questions. It all seemed like busy work to me. By my early teens I discovered a passion for rock-n-roll, so I no longer had time for reading or even televison. (To this day I still despise TV, but that's another topic.)
After I graduated from high school, I started to read for pleasure again. In high school, my friends read "cool" books such as "Naked Lunch" and "A Clockwork Orange." I felt that I had to keep up, so I read them. My friends and I would listen to Thelonious Monk or Beethoven while arguing over the significance of passages in the texts we were reading. My junior collge English classes were not as enlightened. In fact, they bore a striking resemblance to my high school and middle school English classes. Bo-ring.
I remember hearing that upper-division English classes at four-year colleges and at univiersities were more interesting than the lower-division classes at my junior college. I eventually signed up for classes at Mississippi State University and discovered that being an English major was more like the expereince I had with my friends rather than the experiences I had in class. I also became friends with several of my professors. Over beers, we would argue about literary theory, politics, literary genres, literary history, and whatever else was on our minds. It was a liberating expereince.
Even more liberating was my evolution as a writer. My professors were not fooled by my use of passive voice. They did not see it as flowerey and cool. They saw it as pretentious and boring. I spent many hours--both in class and during office hours--learning my craft. Now I understand grammar and writing, and successfully teach them to freshmen in college. I am more than prepared to teach high school.
I believe that my experinece will guide me as a teacher. I see that disjointed exercises don't work. In-class discussions are important, but they have to draw out what is already inside the reader; not to simply answer a question for the sake of answering a question. Rather than worry about if my students are enjoying the material, I want to make sure they see why they are studying it. Rather than make them write essays "because I said so," or even because "this will help you in the future;" I want them to feel joy in expressing themselves. I want to see that they can formulate and express an idea. They don't have to like it, nor do they have to have fun; but they do need to find the joy within. Otherwise English is a series of disjointed readings and BS discussions.