Not that long ago, I was on a date. Inevitably we were talking about our professions and I had to confess: I am an English teacher.
Whenever I tell someone my profession I can expect one of two responses: “Wow” accompanied with wild-eyed shock, bewilderment and confusion. Stuttering, and maybe a bit of awe.
Or something that resembles disgust, an evoked memory of sorts surfacing and as I watched this man’s face fall, almost contorting, I was sure a second date wasn’t in our future.
It wasn’t long before I found out why: “My senior English teacher,” he said, bitterness dripping from his tongue to the now cold chicken, half-eaten parmesan on his plate. “She crushed me. I spent hours on a paper and when she gave it back to me it bled with all the red, judgmental ink. An F, for all that hard work.”
He poked at the chicken. I wondered whether or not you could taste the tangible bitter drippings.
I don’t remember how I responded, I don’t suppose it really mattered. I wasn’t the English teacher who crushed his creative soul, but I might as well have been. I know I have done the same. Not on purpose, of course, but by the very nature of my job—I deconstruct, I judge, I take apart, ripping work to the very seams. It’s what I’m paid to do. I quantify creativity that is never really meant to be quantified and for students who actually work hard to produce that piece, it can be debilitating to their creative egos.
I never get to appreciate my student work for what it is—a beautiful process of self-discovery.
Granted, this process is supposed to help them improve on their process of self-discovery, but as an academic I have to be careful. There is a fine line between butcher and doctor, destroyer and healer. Like a tightrope walker, one step in the wrong direction and I will plummet taking delicate psyches with me.
Through the process of reading The Artist’s Way I am beginning to understand not only more about myself, but the importance of what I do as a teacher—not only of academics but of creative aspirations. Not all of my students are writers, readers, or academics. But all of my students have creative souls, in some way shape or form, because they are all humans and it is a basic human need, maybe even a right, to create.
If we are created in God’s image, then we are created to be creators.