On Being a Sage on the Stage, and Not Being One, and Poetry

How can I avoid being the “sage on the stage,” Pitfall #3? As I think about this question, I can’t help but think about the poetry class I taught—on campus—yesterday afternoon. We were talking about imagery, and how a poet’s job is to make the abstract concrete, and I have to be honest: This is a topic that I absolutely love. I had a twenty minute stretch, walking up and down the aisles of the class, where I definitely felt like the sage on the stage. And I won’t lie: It felt great. There are nearly seventy students in that classroom, and I know this is probably delusional, but I felt like I had them all. So, that’s the background for this topic in my mind: Being a sage on the stage actually does feel really good—when it’s working, and when you can convince yourself that the students are benefiting from your presentation.

But I’m comparing that lecture, and that feeling, to what’s happening in my online poetry class this term. It’s the same class, ENG 106, and I teach it both online and on campus regularly. Online, I am not the sage on the stage. Not by a long shot. And I think part of that is that I’m hyper-aware of the fact that my “students may be Googling [my] lecture topic… finding sources that update or improve [my] presentation” (St. Germain, “Five Common Pitfalls of Online Course Design”). I know the online class has a lot about it that’s good, but I also am keenly aware of the fact that my passion for poetry has a harder time coming through. And this might be a bit simplistic, but I think passion can go a long way in the classroom, to inspire and to encourage learning.

So, here in this post from St. Germain, I’m realizing that avoiding this sage on the stage is actually advised—hooray! I suppose I’m coming at this assignment from a different angle, but this realization leads me to this: How can I utilize my role as a “content curator” (I love that terminology) to do what I think teacher-centered teaching (for all its faults) is good for, to inspire and to convey passion for the material? Is it as simple as collecting and presenting the best of the material available online? Is it a heightened awareness to what’s being advocated for in Pitfall #4, to ask and enable students to create rather than consume? To encourage more student-student learning, as encouraged in Pitfall #5? To allow students themselves to function as sages on stages at least in certain guided lessons?

So interesting. I’m here in this community to work on my grammar course as a hybrid, but I’m actually ending this assignment thinking more about both my online and on campus sections of my poetry class. Wow! Thanks for reading! Any thoughts appreciated!

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