Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I was thinking this morning that the ultimate goal of teaching (at least my teaching) is to help students move beyond themselves and thus broaden their horizons. Put another way, I want to help my students become more unselfish, more able to forget about the small, frail entity called the “self” and become ever more aware of the infinite universe beyond the self. I want to push and pull them out of themselves and into the astonishing realities of the world around them. This is no easy task, simply because my students (like most of us) have been trained by the culture to see their lives as isolated, limited “selves” faced off against an unlimited number of competing selves. Thus, the horizons of my students’ lives are extremely close and confining. They see themselves as dwelling in a small fortification (called the “self”) surrounded by carefully constructed defenses, beyond which is the darkness of a mysterious and menacing universe. My difficult task as their English teacher is to help them slowly dismantle these fortifications so they can become aware of the powers they’ve been shutting out. They have thought of themselves as having a very small brain (with probably lots of “learning issues”); I want to show them that intelligence is far too vast to be confined within a fist-sized muscle inside their heads. I want to expose them to real learning, which exists not inside their brains but in the far reaches of the endless universe. I want to help them to become un-self-ish – to forget their limited, helpless “selves” and remember the immeasurable universe they’re part of.

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