Performing the Vantage

My last post described the classroom as a vantage from which we learn about the world. Tonight, I don’t think I’ll be able to go to sleep if I don’t write about my next thought: Performing the Vantage. I want to talk about how we can perform this theoretical space and what that might mean for my work.

First of all, I have to admit that some days I feel a little crazy. At first this was a little unsettling, but now I’m totally comfortable with the fact that some days I learn more than I teach. These are the days that I feel like Ben Stiller as Tony in the legendary movie “Heavyweights.” To the right is a scene from this movie where Stiller is certainly “performing the vantage.” but it doesn’t help the fact that he’s emotionally unstable. His character understands the idea of the mountaintop experience, but doesn’t realize that it takes more than just a mountaintop to inspire change. It’s not what happens on the mountaintop, it’s how life on the ground is transformed as a result. So performing the vantage can’t become more important than building relationships with the people in our lives. Then, when the moment is right, speak as if you are looking out over the vast open spaces and share your wonder and amazement with the people around you.

I actually believe that if I pretended that I was on a mountain these moments would be more significant. In some ways, this is how I trick myself into believing that I’m not just in any other room … that this room is somehow more conducive to learning. Of course, every class will require a different level of discipline and correction. Some will never reach the moment of wonder when the mountaintop can be reached, but I have been thankful for these moments in the past two weeks and I look forward to improving my ability to notice them in the future. The more I notice these moments, the more I will be able to capitalize on their emotional impact.

What are some potential shortfalls to this perspective? In my post, “A Vantage,” I compared teaching to Mufasa showing Simba his kingdom. This metaphor helps me to further explain the potential shortfalls of performing this vantage in the classroom:

Mountaintop Shortfall #1: Basically, they might not believe that you’re Mufasa. They might not believe that you have any right to show them the kingdom. They might believe that you don’t have anything of worth to give them. They might not appreciate you. They might forsake their inheritance.

Mountaintop Shortfall #2: You might not believe that they are Simba. You might not truly believe that they deserve to inherit the kingdom that you have seen. You might hope they drop out so you don’t have to put up with them any longer. You might forget that you were once Simba.

Mountaintop Shortfall #3: The classroom lingers on the mountaintop for too long. We were not meant to settle into our vantage. Instead, it is meant to be the underlying goal that we reach it every day in order to remind ourselves why we’re there. From the ground we learn how to work; from the vantage we are reminded of its ultimate purpose.

I have experienced all of these shortfalls in just two weeks of class … and I’ve also seen the positive results of the vantage. I suppose those are the moments that I “live for.” I am a beginner to this whole teaching thing so I’m just trying to understand what its all about. As I read in Teaching with Love and Logic, “Great teachers are experimenters.”

Base camp here we come.

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