Sunday, September 24, 2006

ON TEACHING: On Not Personalizing Teaching and Learning

To me, one of the greatest dangers in my work is personalizing teaching and learning – making it an enterprise involving 40 separate students and one individual teacher. When I personalize the situation in my classroom, I turn it into a sort of competition to see which “person” can perform best. I see the teaching and learning as proceeding from the energies of individual persons, and since these persons have definite limitations, I see the teaching and learning as being narrow, partial, restricted, and imperfect. Looked at from a personalized standpoint, the process of education becomes a contest among flawed, deficient people to see how much less flawed and deficient they can become. On the other hand, if I maintain a de-personalized mindset about my work, I can see it as the unfolding, not so much of separate, individual minds, but of the vast universe itself. After all, my students and I are not separate from the whole, magnificent universe. We are part of the same force that makes the rivers run and spins the planets along, and it’s that immense force that’s at work in my classroom. I can pretend that my students and I are doing this educational work by ourselves, but the truth is that all of creation is doing it right along with us. The stars are speeding along, leaves are falling, and teaching and learning is occurring in Room 2 at 89 Barnes Road – all part of the endless and harmonious work of the universe. There's nothing "personal" about it.

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