He Would Have Never Gotten Tenure

by Mark Chmiel

The thing is to get under the students’ skin and arouse enough enthusiasm that they get under their own skin.  This means allowing yourself to be yourself in class. My own best teachers were WC Williams, William Burroughs, Gary Snyder, Gregory Corso, and Jack Kerouac. I learned by hanging around with them, from watching their reaction to cars going down the street or a story in the newspaper or TV or a movie image or a sunset or moon eclipse; when you see the intelligence of somebody reacting to the phenomenal world, you learn by imitation. You see beauty and you want to share it.

My best learning was just being myself with them and they giving me permission to be myself and then discovering myself with them – how funny I was. So you’ve got to encourage the student to discover herself and how funny she is and the only way you can do that is by letting yourself be yourself in class which means not teaching, but being there with the students and goofing off with them. The best teaching is done inadvertently.

–adapted from Allen Ginsberg, Spontaneous Mind

 

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