Friday, January 17, 2003

Guardian teachers
I just finished the lecture, and am still riding on the high of a good performance. Because it is a performance. For 2 x 45 minutes, I have kept about 100 people in their places, watching me and listening to me. Of course other things than their fascination with my voice does that. The structure we are within has considerable power: I am a teacher with more power than for instance their high-school teachers. Besides trying to teach them what is in the books, I can influence what books they have to read, I can influence the questions they have to answer to their exam, and most important: I will be part of setting their all-important grades at the end of the semester, based on what they have understood of the literature I refer to, and of my teaching. All of these things make students come to the lectures, it makes them sit relatively still and behave reasonably well.

These things can't make them attend to what I am actually saying beyond the automatic taking of notes which academia teaches us. The trick is to make the students think. If I can make that happen, I don't mind if what they think is: "I am going to show that bitch that she's wrong even if I have to read through the entire library to prove it!" That particular trick was something my favourite Norwegian-teacher from high-school, Marta Lynge, taught me - 23 years ago perhaps? Marta greatly encouraged my poetry and writing, but I fear I disappointed her there. However, she also influenced my thinking by being a role-model and an example of how it's possible to be woman, intellectual, independent and strong and still keep a wicked sense of humour and adventure.

One of the male students claimed grandly that women should always fight oppression, and should never take advantage of the fact that they were women. He was of course quite annoyed with the fact that his female future colleagues might one day get a better interview than he could just because the men in power might feel protective or attracted to the female journalist. My argument was that to put such a burden on women as a group is further oppression. Still... women would not have the opportunities we have today without the individuals who are willing to live their lives acording to their ideals. And when ever I talk to students about feminism, gender differences and individualism (actually, on quite a few other topics as well, she never put limits on her opinions while teaching), Marta is there in the back of my mind. She is not a conventionally beautiful woman, her laughter is characteristic and not for its pearly qualities, she can be quite sharp and outspoken and she is able to argue the other side of any point given 5 second notice... but she's the closest thing to a guardian angel I'll ever have in the auditorium.

No comments: