In my teaching, I feel more frantic than serene these days, more stressed than peaceful. I don’t feel as well–prepared each day as I would like to feel. I’m working just as hard as always, spending just as much time planning my daily lessons, but I guess I don’t feel like I’m in complete control of things. I don’t feel like I know exactly where each day is supposed to go, and how each day, each lesson, fits into an overall plan. It’s like I’m driving a heavy-laden truck called English Class, but it’s loaded in a somewhat disorganized way and I’m not at all sure where I’m supposed to be taking all this cargo. I don’t mean to suggest that I’m not enjoying my teaching, or that I’m not having some wonderful classes now and then. Just today I had a thrilling class with one of the 9th grade sections – a class that came to an end on the kind of high note that any teacher would be grateful to experience. We were discussing a chapter in Dickens’ Great Expectations, and I was repeatedly astonished by the brilliance of the students’ interpretations. When they had left, I stood in a happy daze for a moment or two, taking delight in what had just happened. So, yes, there are days when I feel very positive about my teaching, but overall, I still have this feeling of anxiety, restlessness, and dissatisfaction – as if something essential is missing from my teaching.
Even as I typed that last sentence, it came to me what might be missing. I might simply not be teaching mindfully enough. I might not be focusing sufficiently on each moment of class, relishing just what’s happening right here, right now in Room 2. Perhaps in my desire to run a methodical and structured classroom, I have been consistently looking away from the good things that are happening in each present moment. In fact, my anxiety about plans and long-term goals might be the precise cause of this mindless inattention on my part. I may be focusing so much on the forest that I’m failing to see the beauty and uniqueness of each and every tree. For it is true – I know this for sure – that each moment of life, including the life in my classroom, is a rare and perfect and astounding miracle. Even when, from my limited perspective, my classes don’t seem to be all that exciting and I seem to be a less-than-successful teacher – even then, every moment in my classroom is a mind-boggling marvel. Throughout every class, epiphanies are constantly happening, inside every student and inside me. They may not be epiphanies that I have carefully planned and can take credit for, but they are wonderful epiphanies nonetheless. And I’m afraid I’m missing a lot – or most – of them, due to my obsession with the forest.
I guess I’ll try a simple cure: I’ll plan each lesson carefully, as I always do, but then I’ll take a deep breath before each class, remind myself to just enjoy the miracles that will be happening in the next 48 minutes, and then relax and enjoy the journey.