Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Is "Surrealty" a Word?

CT, as I've mentioned before, is one of the reasons I became an English teacher. I was a student of hers in high school and, in spite of a traumatic experience I had in her class with The Grapes of Wrath, I was nevertheless inspired by her. She pushed me in just the right ways, she encouraged my writing and sought out my input in class and was a listening ear when I needed to ask guidance about difficult situations in my personal life. She made me believe that I was smart, that I could be eloquent, that I had something worthwhile to contribute. She is someone that I looked up to long after I graduated.

I was afraid, coming back to her as an intern, that the polish would somehow wear off the image that I'd carried of her these last nineteen years. I'm not being poetic or overly sentimental when I tell you that it hasn't. I have seen her be disorganized, frustrated, even downright angry, but I still see in her the same things that made me admire her in the first place. She is thoughtful. She understands that learning is a process that students move through at different paces. She always seeks to accentuate what students CAN do before she moves to correcting or instructing students about what they haven't quite got yet.

I'm not sure I can adequately describe how strange it is, then, to be the recipient of this recommendation. It is oddly surreal to be praised so by someone to whom I so aspire.

I'm not boasting by publishing this; I'm just trying to get my head around the idea that CT is actually talking about ME.

It is somewhat difficult to write a recommendation that seems overwhelmingly complimentary toward a novice teacher without losing some credibility; however, my experience co-teaching with Mrs. Chili has been nothing but a true pleasure, personally and professionally.

Mrs. Chili is a former student of mine. Twenty-something years ago, she sat in a sophomore class and her wit, her intellect, and her articulateness remain memorable. Now a mother of two young girls, she comes to teaching with a refined, skilled capacity for working well with adolescents and, particularly, for eliciting their own perceptions and insights, assisting their movement into more sophisticated readings, analysis, and written expression. She has demonstrated each day a natural patience, encouraging students to become comfortable in the silence of thought. As an instructor, she moves easily between students and material, always following the needs of the class. Although she feels that her sense of timing is not yet well-developed, I am impressed with her ability to transcend the agenda and to create opportunities in which students learn.

Mrs. Chili is a professional. An avid reader, she offers a profound understanding of reading to students who know little about ways to approach text. Her resourcefulness has enhanced our team teaching experiences: she is able to pull out a poem, an excerpt from a film, a textual reference, a website, song lyrics—and she has a connection with students through her knowledge of pop culture. Mrs. Chili has developed a rich repertoire of literature from her own love of language and literature. She has proven to be a creative, imaginative, intellectual teacher. Furthermore, and perhaps just as telling, she is “having a wonderful time.”

I hope that Mrs. Chili will become a colleague at our school in the near future. She has already brought a fresh new energy to our department, a strong philosophical and theoretical bent, and a way of being with students that encourages them to become thoughtful learners.


Blogger vanx said...


March 15, 2006 9:45 PM  
Anonymous Daniel said...

and yet you didnt mention whether or not surrealty is in fact a word or not...kind of defeats the whole purpose of using it as a title dont you think?....

September 13, 2010 12:33 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Chili said...

No, Daniel, I don't think so. If the purpose of my post were to figure that question out, then yes, I should have let the readers know the answer to the title question. As it is, I was going for the impression that the title gave - that feeling of being in that state.

Oh, and just so you know; surreality is, in fact, a word.

September 13, 2010 6:34 AM  

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