Friday, September 29, 2006
ON TEACHING: Dignity
My hope has always been that my classroom will be, above all, a place of dignity. The word has to do with the quality of being worthy of esteem and respect, and certainly that fits both my students and me. Each of us is an infinitely complex and beautiful creation of the universe, and therefore deserving of the highest kind of admiration. My students and I should have as much respect for each other as we would have for any person of great dignity – a king, a queen, or a President of the United States. Moreover, in my classroom we are engaged in activities that have inherent nobility and worth. We can accurately speak of the dignity of serious reading and writing. My students and I are taking part in activities that are limited to only a tiny percentage of people on earth. In a sense, we are the fortunate, distinguished few, and we should try to remember that each time we sit down to do the great work of writing an orderly paragraph or reading an eminent work of literature. I guess this is why I insist on an atmosphere of stateliness and formality in my classroom. Yes, we laugh, do skits, and act silly now and then, but for the most part my students and I conduct ourselves as if we are attending a formal gathering of scholarly, well-mannered adults. We wear respectable clothes, we speak in polite tones, and we are always civil and gracious toward each other. It’s only fitting that we behave in such a decorous manner, seeing as how we are engaged in two of the most majestic enterprises available to human beings -- learning and teaching.