Wednesday, September 06, 2006

ON TEACHING: Building in the Classroom, Part 2

I've been thinking about the verb "to build" as it relates to teaching, and today I came across another intriguing definition: "To develop in magnitude or extent", as in Clouds were building on the horizon. It's interesting to think of an ominous thunderstorm gradually growing in the distance, and then to compare that to the growing sense of apprehension students sometimes have when they know some huge project or event is looming ahead in class. Just as we experience a mixture of fear and exhilaration when we watch dark clouds gathering, so do students often feel both dread and excitement as they look ahead to a daunting academic challenge. They probably don't like the dread, but they would surely miss the excitement if we took it away, just as they would hate to have no more spellbinding thunderstorms. I, too, feel a mix of emotions as I look ahead to something huge in my own teaching. Perhaps I'm trying something brand new, or maybe the culmination of a huge project I've designed might be coming into view. It's scary, but at the same time totally gripping -- and I wouldn't have it any other way. What all this leads me to is the reminder not to avoid designing overwhelming challenges for my students, or for myself. We all need daunting trials now and again to raise both our fears and excitement to a high pitch. It's a way of stirring the air in our hearts and minds, of sweeping things clean the way a wicked thunderstorm often does.

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