My friend, Anne-Marie, is a philosophy professor at Baylor University, as well as an accomplished Iyengar yoga practitioner and teacher. Anne writes a couple of blogs, one of which is her Teaching Philosophy & Yoga blog. Earlier this month I read a post from 1/5/2008 “A Thought on Teaching Nietzsche” Just the night before, my husband Brian & I were having a conversation with our 19 year-old son, who is a freshman at the University of Texas and HE was talking about Neitzsche, some quotes he had just read that he liked. So the next day when I read the blog, I was quite struck. (As I told Anne, while reading Nietzsche and conversing about him might be common in her world, it’s pretty rare in the Walsh’s so I found it quite noteworthy.
My exposure to Neitzsche is limited … very limited. In fact, pretty much limited to Mrs. Young’s high school English class. Our senior year, we had to read Dostoyevsky’s Crime & Punishment, a very challenging read for me, for sure, with all of the Russian names, the length, everything about it! I got through the laborious read only by “American-izing” the names. I still remember … the main character, Romanovich Raskolnikov, became “Rasky.” I got through it, but I hated it, and I didn’t really understand or appreciate the book in any way whatsoever.
That is, until the assignment.
The day after finishing my proverbial “sentence” with Rasky, Mrs. Young offered us 10 or 12 options for enrichment projects. One of the assignments was to read the book Compulsion by Meyer Levin, which was loosely based on a real life murder (the famous Leopold & Loeb case from 1924). After suffering through Dostoyevsky’s massive “punishment,” I couldn’t imagine picking a project that required reading “a whole other novel,” but for whatever reason, I did. I don’t remember many of the details of the second book, only that it involved a belief in committing the perfect crime with some Nietzchean overtures. What I DO remember is that – for whatever reasons – reading that second book helped me “get” Crime & Punishment in a very real way. All of the sudden I understood this very difficult read … And I liked it!
It has been one of those experiences that I have thought back to many times in my life. I was just so struck at how my understanding of the material shifted through that one exercise. It was truly amazing!
Thank you for reminding me of this, Anne, not just for the good memories it evoked, but for the challenge it issues me as a yoga teacher. How do I take all of these vast yoga teachings & alignment details and offer them to my students in a meaningful way? It is the proverbial gauntlet thrown down at my feet. As Christina wrote on her blog, it is a Divine Discontent, one that I’ll admit to feeling somewhat humbled by on an almost daily occasion.
And so I hold to & offer this message ~ Masterful teachers aren’t necessarily those with great knowledge, but those with the ability to take difficult material and make it accessible for their students in a way that becomes alive. I long to be the kind of teacher who creates the exhilaration of a Crime & Punishment moment for my students.
For the lessons you gave me in being a teacher, as well as those in literature, here’s to you, Mrs. Young!
In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.