Stock-photography-gerbil In my quest for teaching, I've called just about every educational institution I admire (within 30 minutes of home), asking for students and a classroom.

Old favorites, Ohio State and Columbus College of Art & Design, are setting up interesting opportunities. And conversations with other colleges and universities are in the mix.

Last week, however, was a most interesting prospect: an eighth grade language arts position at Columbus School for Girls, a local, beloved, K-12 school. They invited me to visit for a day, meeting with the eighth grade faculty and the chair of the English Department, and teaching a class on verbals.

At first, I thought she said, "You'll be teaching a class on gerbils."

I thought, "I'm teaching a class on gerbils?" Surely she didn't say that I would be teaching a class of gerbils. (My daughter attends CSG. I know the "G" in "CSG" stands for "girls," not "gerbils.")

Back when eighth grade English class was called "Grammar," I knew what it was about. Now, however, it's called "Language Arts." Perhaps there is a module on gerbils.

At first, I worried. Then I did what any faux scholar would do: I Googled "verbals."

I quickly learned that "verbals" are alternative forms of verbs. Of course: participle, gerund, infinitive.

It was a stark reminder that writing — even writing well — isn't the same as being able to explain how it's accomplished. I would have to re-learn verbals and just about everything else of grammar — er, language arts.

So I called Kevin Morrin
If you want to learn English as a first language, you might as well start with Kevin Morrin, one of the legendary masters of the English Department at Columbus Academy.

When I was his student in the 1970s, he was — as he remains today — a formidable, larger-than-life intellect. He leans into teaching in a way that makes the subject urgent. He once famously poured tomato ketchup all over himself and entered the classroom, spitting out the report of the Bleeding Sergeant in Macbeth.

We met over coffee and he helped me understand the challenge and opportunity I faced at CSG. He brought a sheath of paper from his bag, looked at me, squinting his eyes, and slid the papers across the table to me. I held the secret transcript of the original notes for the daily lessons that had been taught me in 1973 by David Trowbridge:

Grammar Notes
Sumner F. Dennett
George D. Bown

Columbus Academy

Traffic Calming Ahead He suggested I find a specific street sign that would teach me all I need to know about gerunds.

"'Traffic Calming Ahead'? What is the subject?" he asked. "Many eighth graders might say it is 'traffic.' They would be wrong."

I found the sign and drove on in search of other signs with verbals. And they are everywhere.

From "Custom Cleaning" to "Shopping Center"  — verbals are everywhere.

Pull_To_Stop_Bar_To_Actuate_Signal Of all the signs I've seen, none is as grammatically horrendous (or is that languagely artless?) as the one at left.

I believe I could teach an entire semester on this sign.

But I Canceled the Audition

During the week before the visit to CSG, I met with three of my teachers. They know me well and care for my next steps. (How lucky am I? Way lucky.)

All three helped me to understand that, if I leap into full-time classroom teaching, I will not be able to pursue my book projects, my continuing work with Young Isaac clients, and my public speaking.

One said: "You will love teaching. The kids will love you. The parents will be grateful. Another 18 years will pass in a flash. And you still won't have done the most important work of your career. Artie's potential is best realized when you have flexibility and constantly changing opportunity. You must make sure that you set yourself up to do the most important work of your life. Now."

So, I've stepped back from full-time teaching. I hope to sub often and broadly. And, of course, teach college students, graduate students, and friends in the corporate world. (Just last week, OhioHealth had me address a corporate staff on Choosing Words: The Ethics of Speech in Healthcare.)

Did I chicken out? I was trained 30 years ago at Yale as a teacher. Am I just scared of the daily, daylong challenge?

The Plan
All I ask is: Give me a few years. Let me do the best work of my career at Young Isaac. Let me write a couple books. Let me teach broadly from middle school to college to the corporate world.

Then, perhaps, I'll be ready for the classroom.

For now, let me pull to the stop bar to actuate signal.

Traffic calming ahead.