Sunday, September 24, 2006
ON TEACHING: Each
I find it helpful to remember that the word “each” is embedded inside the word “teach”, for I often – usually – pay more attention to the “class” I’m teaching than to each individual member of the class. It’s so easy to do, just as easy as not noticing specific, distinct things when I’m driving back and forth to school. As I go down Route 1, the landscape passes me in a blur, and I only pay attention to the big, important things: stoplights, other cars, the road ahead. Of course, it’s necessary that I stay focused on the process of operating the car, but I could certainly also work at noticing some of the unique scenes I pass – an especially beautiful tree, an unusual house, the look of the sky in the distance. There are miracles along the road – separate, individual marvels – that I could spend the rest of my life noticing and enjoying. A similar situation is present in my classroom each day. I am engaged in teaching, not classes, but 40 individual phenomena called students. Each one is a complete wonder, created by the universe in mysterious ways and for inexplicable reasons. When I’m teaching, it’s as if I’m face-to-face with a group of spectacular mountains. What I want to do, this year, is appreciate the beauty of each of the mountains – each of these exceptional human beings I teach. Their magnificence is lost if I see them only as a group, a class. I need to open my eyes, turn away from the minutiae of my lesson plans, and become aware of the splendor of each and every one of these teenagers seated around me at the table.