I riff in class sometimes. My hands start waving around and I get swept away responding to a student’s insight or inquiry. It happened yesterday while teaching pre-service teachers. They had expressed being overwhelmed by their courses and personal lives, so I stopped class to ask them to share more: I wanted to understand where they were coming from so I might adjust my own practice to support them.
One student responded, “You’re the first professor who has ever done that.” I was riffing, so didn’t plan what I said next, but it will stay with me for a very long time.
“I can’t teach without you.”
Teaching isn’t a monologue. Teaching is a dialogue, a relationship. Without my students’ presence, trust, and care, I’m just an overeducated man fooling himself. They can learn without me–albeit, differently–but I cannot teach without them.