Tuesday, October 10, 2006
ON TEACHING: Caprice
Today I fell into an old habit of capricious behavior in class, and I’m not happy about it. One dictionary defines “caprice” as a sudden, unpredictable action, change, or series of actions or changes, as in “A hailstorm in July is a caprice of nature” –and I guess you could say I caused a small hailstorm in my classroom today. A girl simply tried to tell another girl about a teaching award I had recently received, and, without warning, I barked at her and asked her to be quiet. It was totally unlike me, and I think both girls were stunned by it. It was capricious conduct of the most brainless kind – the kind of conduct that I find embarrassing and disappointing. As a teacher, I have tried, above all, to be a calm, stable, predictable, and composed person when I’m with my students. Young people need to be in the presence of adults who have the quiet strength of a relentless but smooth-flowing river. They don’t need to be around sudden, unpredictable people whose behavior is as whimsical as the wind. Today, for a few moments with those girls, I was an erratic, impulsive teacher, and I’m not pleased about it. As I’m typing this paragraph, I’m wishing I could get back to the classroom right now and behave in a more self-possessed manner. I’ll have to wait, though, for tomorrow’s classes, when I hope my students will see a steadier, more tranquil Mr. Salsich.