For thirty-some years, coming close to 40, I've taught students in high school and college, never really altering a basic mode that developed early on, beginning at a time I didn't recognize it as my own. I remember a time, during my first year, when I told myself--based on the eyes of my students--that this teaching thing was a job I could do. I hadn't really known that, going into that year. On the other hand, I never once feared failure as a teacher. I don't know why.
What's become my trademark is something, well, I guess, Madden-esque. I once asked a student, who was imitating an entire gallery of his profs--my colleagues--how he did me. He hunched his shoulders and turned into John Madden, who--you might have noticed--does not gesticulate as generously as he once did. I suppose none of us do. But that's who he did--John Madden. That's Schaap, he said.
Whatever the visage or character, it's not something I plan or execute. It's in me to be who I am. I tell my students that they'll never write well until they are comfortable with their voice. I don't know if I write all that well--I've never been in the NY Times--but I do know that I'm okay with my voice. I've got sea legs in a classroom too, which is a related kind of characteristic.
But I think its my energy in the classroom, when there's a crowd around, that creates my deep appreciation for solitary early mornings. I used to think it was the old days on Lake Michigan--duck hunting, trapping muskrats, just charging through the woods or along the rivers at the crack of dawn. Some boyhood thing.
But that isn't all of it. There's more.
This morning, before five, I walked outside and was greeted by the brightest possible moon staring down from the western horizon. I grabbed the camera, but I don't have the technological heft--if there is such--to capture the immense and brilliant presence. It was beautiful. And quiet. Silence.
I love the morning, the early morning, I think, because of the silence, because there's no need for the John Madden I can be, no call, no show. In the earliest hours of the morning I draw about myself a cloak of darkness emblazoned with a single brilliant moon, and stand alone in the darkness, smiling.
Tomorrow too, I'm sure.