Now You Don’t Need It Now You Do But Now You Don’t Remember

Every now and then someone asks me how I teach a particular unit in the textbook. At first, I can usually only give them a blank stare and a couple semi-coherent grunts. By the time I think of the advice I should give, they’ve already dismissed me as brain damaged and/or insane.

Sometimes when I’m teaching a class, I suddenly remember how to teach the lesson and suddenly have to change plans on the fly.

Part of the problem is I suffer from an extreme case of what I call “Actor’s Memory”. Actors memorize a surprising amount of lines and blocking over the course of months in order to be able to do a few performances (in the case of plays). There’s constant repetition and review in order to make the blocking second nature and allow them to work on the emotion behind the lines.

When those plays are over, though, the lines go away. In my case, I remember performing in the plays, and I remember a lot of the problems involved with a couple of the plays, but I only remember a few lines despite spending two months saying them.

I suspect this stems from a kind of compartmentalization of memory. I needed the lines when I needed them and reserved a portion of my brain for them. Once they were no longer needed, I freed up that bit of memory for important stuff like Bloody Mary recipes and movie lines. In some cases I forgot the lines within days of the play finishing, even when I only had a few lines.

This also applies to computer related stuff and visa renewal tasks. I study how to do something and then spend time doing it but then a year later I’ve forgotten what I did and have to study it all again.

In the case of teaching, I try to remember what I did but it’s not until I’m actually up performing that my lines begin coming back to me. That happened this past week when I suddenly remembered the activity I’d done the year before and started doing it.

Granted, I’ve written all this stuff down but just staring at the script doesn’t bring back the blocking, so to speak.

Also, sometimes I just forget where I put the notebook.


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