Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I feel fairly successful as a teacher these days (which has not always been the case), mostly because I am being a good leader for my students. In a way, my students are as bewildered as they would be if they were lost in a wilderness, and it’s my responsibility to show them where they are and how to move forward. Since the books we read and the essays we write are often as baffling as any backwoods landscape, I have to be at the forefront, bringing them along slowly. I have to be a small light in their darkness. Admittedly, I didn’t always feel this way. Years ago, I thought the teacher’s job was to work beside the students as a colleague, not in front of them as a leader. I’m sure the students then were just as lost as they are now, but instead of guiding them out of their confusion, I joined them in it. I was a pal, not a boss. Now, though, I realize that life is a mysterious and inscrutable phenomenon, and that young people, more than anyone, need an escort to lead them to at least a modicum of clarity and understanding. Reading Charles Dickens or writing a five-paragraph literary analysis essay can be a maze-like experience, and I get paid to steer the students through it. Lately, I think I’ve been a good driver for the bus called “English class”. We’re coming through.

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