What You Don’t Know About Teachers
Reflections on 21 months of pandemic teaching
Today, I did some math, and I realized that since I started teaching when I was 21, I have taught about 3,580 of you — mostly undergraduates, some adult teachers, and some high school students. This means I have worked with you when you were 18 and during one of the most liminal times in your life.
Liminal — the threshold or occupying both sides of a boundary or the middle stage of a ritual. Crossing from one home to the next, moving to a scary and, at times, very isolating city. Going to parties, taking organic chemistry, fighting with your roommates, missing your parents, not missing your parents, coming out, transitioning, figuring out a major, learning how to feed yourself, taking the subway, and finding a therapist, friends, apartments, community, and maybe parts of yourself.
As you have been 18 or 19 with me, I have aged from 21 to 49. I don’t always love this. Aging is hard. Having an aging, disabled, female body in front of all of you is harder still. Being a meat sack in space and time.
Dressing for class has always been a challenge for me. What’s appropriate? What do I want to wear? What’s comfortable? What makes me feel good? Post-pandemic this is even harder. Nothing fits as it used to, fabric textures feel different against my skin though I know rationally they are the same, and styles I used to love, I can no longer stand. I feel large and invisible at the same time.
Do you know that I publish books, raise a child, live in an apartment, waste time on dating apps, have sex, get sick, am disabled, am mentally ill, am lonely, am in relationships, am divorced, am queer, was abused by my brother and father as a child, love sex and connection, love my friends, will do anything for my kid, cuddle with my cat, love yoga but have a hard time getting to class, and am in some kind of physical pain on most days?
Do you know I have lived in New York City since 1994 and most every year of my life has been hard and beautiful in some way? Do you know I love NYC more than I have loved any other place except maybe Mexico City and Madrid? Do you know how hard I’ve had to fight to stay alive and to teach you the way that I know…