Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

When Hearing Loss Leads to Creativity: Following the Path of the Random Sensei

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2011 at 4:09 pm

 I have selective hearing loss coupled with selective hearing super powers. Let me explain.

 Occasionally, one of you, dear sweet students, will be mystified about how I heard, oh, let’s say a complaint about this or that (homework, another teacher, the way I change my mind all the time) from the farthest corner of the room. “Bionic ears,” I say, and if you all were a little older you would know that there was a television show called “The Bionic Woman” in which the actress Lindsay Wagner played a schoolteacher who had been implanted with bionic body parts. Not only could she write on the chalkboard at super fast speeds, she also had a bionic ear that allowed her to hear trouble from miles away. When her ear tuned into trouble,  she would leave her classroom and dash to the scene and take care of business like most superhero women do. Here’s her picture:

 Now I have written all of this just so I could tell you that the other day, while teaching 9th grade, I thought I heard Chris Elliott say “Random Sensei.”

Wow. I wonder if that’s a new I-phone app, I thought in all of my midlife cluelessness

And then it slowly dawned on me.

I had misheard.

 But the idea of a Random Sensei intrigued me, because indeed, I do think learning has a certain randomness to it and can come from unforeseen sources, which makes being a teacher a bit of a mystery, a bit of an exciting, more glamorous affair—if one could imagine, say, me actually having a bionic ear or some sort of hypersensitive nanochip that allowed me to tune into the random sensei we all encounter in day, if one could imagine that I, with a lasso of truth could wrangle up all of the intangible variables  that you will need in my brief time with you.

But I am not superhero like the Bionic Woman and I have no lasso of truth like Super Woman. In fact, I am the exact opposite of a random sensei. I actually try to plan and figure out what I can do as to force you to arrive at some mastery of:  a skill, knowledge of a new text or idea, the ability to think critically and discuss intelligently, the ability to recognize which sentence works better and why and how to end an essay so that your reader will really remember it.

 I suppose the only role I really have in your learning is to be the most unrandom force in your life, showing up everyday, looking basically the same– sort of tired, sort of old, sort of like someone else’s mom–to say, “PC Read” or “Tell me what you remember about Zora Neale Hurston,” or “Vern, Elizabeth, Sophia, what homework did I assign last night?”  And I suppose it is my job to show up everyday and sort of intuit when you need someone to say, “Good job!” and when you need someone to say, “Stop whining.” And I suppose it is my job to just be there while you all encounter all of the random sensei in your young and exciting worlds, which, let’s face it, I am pretty out of touch with—I mean I thought the concept of random sensei was an Iphone app.

But the point I want to make here is that life is full of random sensei. They show up in a variety of forms.

And often learning is an accident.

A sheer random collision of forces.

 And often learning doesn’t happen in places like classrooms with English teachers and dictionaries and the occasional fish (yes, that’s an insider’s allusion to Ralph!) So, I guess my real job (really) is to prepare you for the learning  so that when it happens you recognize it and can grab it  and stick it in your pocket for when you need it later.  And, like collecting seashells at the beach, you collect all of these tidbits of knowledge until your pockets are full and then some day (when you are ready) you start giving them out to others.

In a way, you will all become a teacher– if you aren’t one already– to someone. You have probably taught your parents more than you will ever know. You have taught me much as well. You are all my sensei as I am  yours. I just have more seashells in my pocket .

So here is my last “philosophical seashell” that I hand to you before your summer vacation:

Enjoy being young and beautiful and be optimistic about the world.

You’re only young once, beauty fades, and optimism becomes complicated.

And you will get old some day, so be nice to old people, like me, and your parents, and your grandparents and the people who embarrass you but love you. Go forth into the green world of summer and roll the windows down in your car as much as possible, and turn the music up as loud as you can and let yourself be heard.

See you in the fall. Maybe you can be cool and old school and get one of these vintage Bionic Woman lunch boxes for school next year along with a BPA free water bottle so that you can be hip and green.

Your Not-So-Random Sensei,

Mrs. Lewis

PS: Here is a link to the opening of “The Bionic Woman”– not a bad concept for a Seventies television show.

Opening of \”The Bionic Woman\”