Spitwad Sutras: Classroom Teaching as Sublime Vocation

Spitwad Sutras: Classroom Teaching as Sublime Vocation

Spitwad Sutras: Classroom Teaching as Sublime Vocation

Spitwad Sutras: Classroom Teaching as Sublime Vocation

Synopsis

This work goes beyond the basics of classroom management to consider the path of both teacher and student toward authentic intellectual maturity and spiritual growth. It provides a framework for stripping away the external and personal pressures that bleed intellectual content out of classroom teaching so that teachers may, in fact, experience their vocation as "sublime." Written in the novelistic first-person narrative, it is a seasoned teacher's story of his initiation from graduate student at the University of Chicago to ninth-grade teacher in a Catholic high school where he manned the battle lines in provincial, petty, sometime even violent world of American secondary school. It is also the story of how a certain Brother Blake, a 67-year-old practitioner of the "pedagogy of the sublime," passed on his vision of classroom teaching as a sublime vocation. A major contribution to the field by the acclaimed author of The Ignorant Perfection of Ordinary People.

Excerpt

What follows is the story of my initiation into the art of classroom teaching. It chronicles my transition from a graduate student at the University of Chicago, addicted to books and ideas, to an embattled ninth grade teacher--still addicted to books and ideas, but tempered by a new awareness of the difficulty of preserving their worth in the provincial, petty, sometimes even violent world of the American high school.

In this sense, my story is a kind of Divine Comedy in reverse, dramatizing my descent from an intellectual's heaven to an intellectual's purgatory--with my only guide and guru, my Virgil, a certain Brother Blake, a sixty-seven-year-old practitioner of the "pedagogy of the sublime."

To recount what he taught me about teaching and how he initiated me into its secret arts, I have assumed all the prerogatives of the novelist--altering names, combining characters, condensing time, and reinventing dialogue. If I have sometimes omitted too much or added events that took place only in my imagination, I have done so not out of irreverence or impudence but from the simple need to render Brother Blake's vision in the literary genres most capable of doing it justice: the legend, the memoir, and the philosophical dialogue.

Here, then, is a practitioner's confession, limited in scope and qualified by circumstance, that aspires, nevertheless, to serve as an intellectual survival manual for classroom teachers.

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