missiles. When they go after you they’re following a primal instinct.
It is the function of the young to get rid of their elders, to make
room on the planet. You know that, don’t you? The Greeks knew
it. Read the Greeks.
The professor said that before your students enter the room you
must have decided where you’ll be — “posture and placement” — and
who you’ll be — “identity and image.” I never knew teaching could
be that complicated. He said, You simply cannot teach unless you
know where to position yourself physically. That classroom can be
your battleground or your playground. And you have to know who
you are. Remember Pope: “Know thyself, presume not God to scan /
The proper study of mankind is man.” First day of your teaching you
are to stand at your classroom door and let your students know how
happy you are to see them. Stand, I say. Any playwright will tell you
that when the actor sits down the play sits down. The best move of
all is to establish yourself as a presence and to do it outside in the hall-
way. Outside, I say. That’s your territory and when you’re out there
you’ll be seen as a strong teacher, fearless, ready to face the swarm.
That’s what a class is, a swarm. And you’re a warrior teacher. It’s
something people don’t think about. Your territory is like your aura,
it goes with you everywhere, in the hallways, on the stairs and,
assuredly, in the classroom. Never let them invade your territory.
Never. And remember: teachers who sit or even stand behind their
desks are essentially insecure and should try another line of work.
I liked the way he said assuredly, the first time I ever heard it used
outside of a Victorian novel. I promised myself that when I became
a teacher I’d use the word, too. It had an important sound to it that
would make people sit up and pay attention.
I thought it was terrific the way you could stand up there on that
little platform with your podium and your desk and talk for an hour
with everyone before you making notes and if you had any kind of
good looks or personality the girls would be tripping over themselves
to see you afterward in your office or anywhere else. That’s what I
thought at the time.