There’s a joke I often make about teaching.
I hate teaching. I hate the students. I just want to punch them in their smug little faces over and over again. But I am led to believe that this is not within the boundaries of acceptable pedagogy.
It always gets a laugh. Its not particularly funny. People laugh because the sentiment is both inappropriate and (more than?) a little bit true. Here we arrive at our first lesson: teaching is not generally considered to be a matter of violence. Except when it is.
When I wonder about my own motivations: in teaching, in life, in art – I always find it most comforting to attribute my actions to the basest motives. That I do these things only for money, ego or (most gloriously) for absolutely no reason at all.
It feels better to think I am doing something for a bad reason than to say I would like to do something for a good reason. For me this is very close to the idea of pedagogy.
The honest desire that I want things to change, that I want my actions to effect the changes I desire, seems ridiculous to me.
I was at an art opening, standing around with a group of artists, all artists whose work I admire.
One of them started complaining about teaching, about the workload and the level of the students. About how draining it was. Everyone joined in, and suddenly I wasn’t standing around with a group of artists, I was standing around with a group of teachers.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, I continue to have a fairly romantic view of artists, while I have a remarkably unromantic view of teachers. (My father was a teacher.) And in the moment when the switch happened, when the people I was surrounded by flipped from artists to teachers, it was a bit like the entire world unraveled.
If artists are teachers, then what are artists?
I felt certain that the motives of each of us in the circle, our motives for teaching, were mainly connected to money, to the desire to make a living. (I probably teach the least of the group, which sadly made me feel just a little superior.) I felt our teaching had nothing to do with the dissemination of knowledge or with any sort of genuine caring for the students. But why did I think this? What evidence did I have? Was I only projecting my cynicism onto those around me or could I actually say something in support of my theory?
When one is standing in from of a classroom there is an incredible pressure to perform.