The Teacher’s Body

image from “Welcome Back, Kotter” (popular sitcom, c. 1975); paper airplane stuck in teacher’s thick, curly hair

This week in the 5100 seminar (you know, the Theory and Teaching of Writing gig), we are turning our thoughts, talk, activities, readings to:  The Teacher’s Body.  Yes, we all have one!  And some of you have probably noticed that it can/does “matter” in your classrooms; on some days, and in some ways, more than others.   

Our text for class (today, Mon. Sept. 25) is the edited collection, The Teacher’s Body: Embodiment, Authority and Identity in the Academy (Diane P. Freedman and Martha Stoddard Holmes, Eds. SUNY Press, 2003).  The beautiful little essay by Betty Franklin Smith  that opens that collection (of 18 essays),  also titled “The Teacher’s Body,” moves me every time I read it (this would be the fifth time).  Franklin writes, and I relate:

… I am deeply moved by the history of education. I have to stop and breathe deeply as I read the accounts of complex lives that reveal the conscious and unconscious intentions shaping our past and present.  The letters and diaries of teachers in each historical era illustrate the paradox of freedom and bondage within teachers’ lives.  (19)

And then, with teaching and the body in mind, Franklin moves her essay toward closure with a quote from George Eliot’s Middlemarch:

‘It is an uneasy lot at best, to be what we call highly taught and yet not to enjoy; to be present at this great spectacle of life and never to be fully possessed of the glory we behold, never to have our consciousness rapturously transformed into the vividness of a thought, the ardor of passion, the energy of action…’  (206-207, Middlemarch; 19-20)

Notably here, Franklin leaves off the counter-balancing part of the Middlemarch passage … and I’m intrigued by what that absence signifies (in the teacher’s body);  the other half of the sentence, not quoted, continues as follows:

… but always to be scholarly and uninspired, ambitious and timid, scrupulous and dim-sighted.

In closing, Franklin links Eliot’s  (truncated words) to her own final claim:

So to be possessed of glory in the dynamics of teaching and learning is to be embodied and to honor the embodiment of others. . . .  The teacher’s body (our bodies) enters our consciousness through our direct sensory awareness, through literature and the arts, through our long ventures in illness and health, and through our ‘othered’ appearances.

I wonder then:  Where and how is your own teacher’s body mapped in those four locations of:

(1) your direct sensory awareness and experiences?

(2) your embodied relationships with, and in, literature and the arts?

(3) your own ventures with illness and health, dis/ability?

(4) your various “othered” dis/appearances?