I hate Greek Mythology. I hate the absurdity of the stories, that there are various and contradictory versions, and that there are what, like a bajillion characters whose names all start with H? And is it Hercules or Heracles?
Who can keep it all straight?
Naturally, I realize that I am bombarded with hundreds of mythological references everyday, from watching Apollo 13 to being jealous of other writers who seem to have The Midas Touch to seeing soccer moms driving around in their Honda Odysseys.
Understandably, the 9th grade teachers at our school are required to teach a unit on Greek mythology.
Among other benefits, this unit teaches their students fictional elements, increases their cultural literacy, and allows them to correctly answer questions on Jeopardy!
My mythology unit, however, was always full of boring lectures, uninspired worksheets, and stumbling explanations. I skated through it as quickly as I could just so I could check it off my list and move on to one of my passions, Romeo and Juliet.
Enter Sadie. I’ve had roughly ten student teachers over the years, but Sadie was the first. She exuded the kind of idealism and enthusiasm that seems so quaint to mid-career educators such as I was at the time. During the myth unit, she broke the students into groups, assigned each group a myth, and required them to present the myth (using PowerPoint, doing a news anchor desk presentation, performing a skit or pantomime, whatever the group wanted). Afterward, each group submitted three quiz questions that Sadie organized into a unit exam. It was an engaging and educational exploration of the Greek mythos.
Watching Sadie was equal parts liberating and humbling. Later I said to her, “Thank you for creating that mythology project. And I want you to know that I’ll be stealing it and using it for the rest of my career.”
Conventional wisdom might suggest that I had nothing to learn from someone who had never even taught before. And conventional wisdom would be wrong. Developing the humility to learn from those who are younger, less experienced, or in some other way supposedly “lower” or “less” takes practice, but the learning can be deep and profound. Our willingness to seek out learning, from wherever it hails, can enrich many, many lives.
Starting with our own. TZT
*How narcissistic is it to quote yourself? Damn, there’s another one of those pesky mythological allusions.