Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Teaching with your spouse

Yesterday, Mr. Geeky and I shared classroom space. There we were at the front of the class, each holding a piece of chalk, facing 30 students. We had spent two hours the night before hammering out what we were going to talk about, what we wanted the students to discuss. I have shared teaching space with many people over the last three years since most of the workshops I run are co-taught. I admit to wanting some amount of control over things. I like to feel like the space is mine (and the students').

With Mr. Geeky, though, I didn't feel like I was giving up control. We fell into a rhythm of give and take. He talked; I talked. We both called on students; we both responded to students. It was, in many ways, like our dinner table. Our dinner table, our car rides, our trips to the park, are quite often teaching moments. Our kids ask us questions; we ask questions back. We discuss; we ask for elaboration. The questions are never simple. Example: on the the way home from work this evening, Geeky Boy and Geeky Girl wanted to know exactly what our relationship was to dogs. Where is the common ancestor? I wanted to call on Pharyngula for help. I did the best I could for an English major.

There were times, during the planning process for the course, that we had some heated discussions about the shape of the class, but we worked those out. Now that the class is underway, we pretty much present a united front. But that united front represents a lot of little compromises, compromises that I think came a little easier because of our 15-year relationship, filled with millions of such compromises.

Yes, there are things that I would do differently if Mr. Geeky weren't teaching with me. I'd probably have the syllabus completely sketched out through the end of the year. I wouldn't be making lesson plans the night before class. But I think this has been a positive experience so far.

Tomorrow, we step into the classroom together again. We'll see how it goes. This evening, at a cocktail party with the college president, we told her that we didn't think the whole class knew we were married. We thought we might pull an Al and Tipper move on the class. She said, "I think one of you should say, 'That's a great point' and then dip the other." I'm thinking that's not going to happen, even if we do have the approval of the president.