What We Do

It’s only week two. I haven’t figured out what poems we’ll be looking at throughout the semester. Not sure how to make the printers work. Really can’t seem to drive close enough to the parking lot ticket dispenser so I’m not hanging out the window.  To be honest, I can’t tell you each student’s name yet.  But I can tell you this: these women are my light.

Over the summer I taught the men’s class and I was taken by their energy, openness, and pure playfulness. For everything I am (quiet, hesitant, calm) they challenged me in the best way possible. So I was unsure what type of teacher I’d be without them. I’m not even entirely sure I have an answer yet (as we established, week two, people.) But again, what I do know is that I’m comfortable in a way I wasn’t before. Without needing to shape or control or do much asking I see our classroom as a safe place. So safe and comfortable and supportive that after one week I missed my students. I think that’s as beautiful as it gets, maybe. Missing people you barely know, but still connect with on some fundamental, human level.

We’ve been working on sharing what we write. Shyness runs thick. Yet, I don’t mind. I’m finding I don’t need such immediate openness to feel my own personal security. Instead, I’m part of it, if that makes sense. In my own classes at Chatham, each week, I force myself to open my mouth. I read what I’ve written and I don’t apologize. So when the women at Allegheny hide behind their notebooks or rock, paper, scissor who reads first, I get it. I get it so completely that I forget I’m a teacher or an outsider and just sort of melt into this communal struggle to be confident. To find self-worth in voices. To remember how magical it is to listen to each other overcome that hesitation, that moment of doubt that whispers what you say doesn’t matter. It does matter. And what’s even more beautiful about this whole moment is that when I tell a student what she’s written matters, everyone in the class, even in week two, nods in agreement.

-Alison Taverna, Teacher