Three Truths Teaching Taught Me

I work with university students.

Yes, I do “teach” them — but let’s be accurate here: in the teacher-student relationship, it’s work for everyone.

This is one of the key concepts that I teach my freshman, along with many other revelations on life and writing. How to learn to work efficiently and effectively.

The Symbiotic Relationship of Work

Teachers also continuously learn from their students.

I have learned three crucial truths about from my freshmen about people. These truths affect the way I  conceive myself and the way I believe people learn to relate to each other.

This, naturally, affects thought, and the way I write.

1. Age is meaningless. Biological age gives certain historical context and often means we exist within certain cultural frameworks (texting culture vs. rotary phone culture, for example). But with my students, it is easy to forget that they are, in fact, our future Obamas and Maya Angelous because they are doing those often moronic teenagery things we all did when we were 18.

Age is like a rubberband– depending on the day and our moods, we expand and contract into the time and experience we have learned. Wrinkles cannot impact the soul’s experience of memory and the moment.

You might be 65. You might be a respected leader in your field. You might be screaming at me at this moment because something I said touched a raw spot and you contracted into a memory.

I have no problem expecting young people to be capable of complex emotion and critical thought.

I have no problem with all people, then expecting them to experience hurt and joy, equally.

“Everyone is the age of their heart.”  ~Guatemalan Proverb

2. We are all alone. This is easy to forget. This is not easy to accept.

My young students, however, arriving away from home as young freshmen, remind me of this every year. They run desperate rites of passage in sweatpants through the halls in order to reestablish their link to “community” — this is the universal desire we all have isn’t it? To banish loneliness and push down that truth: despite our biological and even emotional similarities, our relationships, teams, and families cannot stop the truth that each of us is an island.

The moment we stop being “young” is the day we realize that we can never conquer that aloneness.

“Life is for each man a solitary cell whose walls are mirrors.” — Eugene O’Neill

3. “Revision” never ends, but it always has to.  Freshmen writers don’t want to do any more work than they have to, by and large. Teachers always want them to do more and make it better.

The symbiosis is reflected in the “final product,” in being done with something.

We are constantly being bombarded — in life — with new things: new ideas, new technologies, new friends, new everything. These intrusions into the status quo constantly ask us (like the teacher does) to reevaluate who we are. To re-see (re-vision!) our viewpoints, our approach, our demeanor — our everything!

The end of revision comes when we stop. Walk away. We stop processing or refuse to change. Meditate and choose to not enter into that particular conversation. This path or that one. We choose to not make that friend or not return that call or not revise that webpage.

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” —Anton Chekhov

The end of revision comes when you walk away. You stop processing; you refuse to change.

You don’t enter into that conversation.

You don’t make that friend or return that call.

Because you can’t do everything all the time and you shouldn’t.