Friday, August 26, 2016

Maybe we were too excited

I was surprised when I realized that both Karen Armstrong and I had strong disturbances on the way to our occupations.  She entered the convent at 17 and stayed there for 7 years.  The way she tells it, she was often at odds with the regimen and the procedure expected of her.  I entered a teachers college at the same age but didn't have courses aimed at teaching as such until a couple of years later.  Armstrong explains that she asked what exactly she was supposed to do since some days the beginners were told that very strict obedience was the key to advancing successfully but other days, they were berated for not using their own intelligence and common sense.  

I had courses on the subject of teaching in preparation for teaching elementary school and asked edged and probably impertinent questions about the logic and coherence of what was being taught.  An exasperated professor gave me a library call number and told me to take a look at the book.  When I saw the book was The Authoritarian Personality by Adorno and others, I felt a jolt.  I think the professor was telling me that I was being too strict and cross-examining the curriculum and activities too minutely.

There seem to have been similarities between my desire to walk on water as a heavenly teacher and Armstrong's desire to be united with God.  Both of us were probably overly excited and elated and too determined to be and do two or three times what was called for to reach our goals and then some.  Lynn knew me through all of this and tried to tell me to relax. My mother told me the same sort of thing.  But an older professor of geography calmly asked how long I had been student teaching when I was ready to quit and go to some other school where I would find a more suitable major.  I told her I had been student teaching for six weeks.  She asked how long I thought she had been teaching.  At the time, I thought she looked as though she was a couple of centuries old but I had the manners and respect to say I didn't know but that I thought she had been teaching a long time.  

She advised me to finish my degree and teach for at least two years.  That seemed sensible and I went on to become a professor of education and teaching.  I would have been astounded to know that was in my future as Armstrong would have been astounded to know that she would go on to become the foremost writer about religion in the modern world, translated into 45 languages.

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