A Severe Case of English Teacher’s Disease


“Words! They’re all we have to go on!” said a cautiously optimistic Rosencrantz to his utterly confused and despondent buddy, Guildenstern, as they searched for life’s answers.

As an English teacher, I have to agree. I love words and am afflicted with a severe case of ETD: English Teacher’s Disease. I have no desire to be cured. In fact, I work hard to afflict others.

One of the reasons I love being an English teacher is that I believe it to be essential for students to dig through the layers of meanings authors communicate with their words. Here’s the most important reason why, and it has nothing to do with essays or unit tests: Life is terrifically complex. Life’s adventures can’t be fully expressed or understood without an ability to recognize how connotations and relationships are woven among symbols, events, and images that, at first glance, might seem unrelated.

Analyzing literature is great practice for analyzing life.

Literature is also a great place to look for truth. Finding truth involves both feeling and intellect. The emotions generated by any work are almost as important as the intellectual ideas expressed in it.

As a teacher, I strive to keep both of those “truth” components in mind when I’m conducting class. I want students to “feel” the literature in addition to understanding it intellectually. Toward that end, I also want them to enjoy the class, which to me means being both interested and relaxed. That’s important to me personally and I know that it serves me professionally in my curricular goals. Students perform at a higher level when they enjoy what they are doing. Therefore, I work hard to infuse humor into my lessons. A daily, personal goal I have as an instructor is to make students laugh during the class period – preferably on numerous occasions. Humor opens them up to learn more comfortably and confidently. And if they are open, comfortable, and confident, their powers of analysis increase dramatically. Those powers will transfer to all areas of their lives, and then, maybe, just maybe, along the way they’ll catch the beautiful malady that will cause them to love words as much as I do.

“I Teach” is a quarterly column written by an outstanding teacher, administrator, or community member chosen by the Paw Print Staff.