Sunday, December 31, 2006

Whenever I feel inspired by my work as a teacher – whenever I feel like I’m doing a great job and am becoming a better and better teacher – I know I’ve lost my way temporarily. I know I’ve taken the familiar but dangerous path toward arrogance instead of the narrow and correct one that leads to humility. I’m patting my own back instead of my students’. Like a confused gardener, I’m admiring the soil more than the flowers. After all, a teacher’s only job is to see to it that his students grow as abundantly and gracefully as possible. His job is not to be a brilliant teacher but to make it easy for his students to be brilliant students. All the spotlights in his classroom should be on the students, and none on himself. To go back to the garden analogy: Who wouldn’t be amused at a gardener who, at the end of the growing season, was more thrilled with the quality of the soil than with the wealth of the harvest? The harvest, not the soil, is the whole point of a garden, and productive, resourceful students is the whole point of education. Like soil, a good teacher is helpful, but he should remain relatively hidden, like the featureless, unassuming soil in which a profusion of beautiful things grows. A good teacher doesn’t need to feel successful; he only needs to know that his students do.

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