Thursday, August 30, 2007

Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot (1796-1875), "Ville-d'Avray"

As another school year gets underway, I’m thinking, again, of what an astonishingly complex and miraculous enterprise this teaching business is. When I think of teaching, I think of the Grand Canyon, or of an endless and beautiful ocean, or of the vastness of outer space. To me, teaching is an utter and magnificent mystery. When a teacher and students come together to learn, only miracles can happen – miracles as great as the changing seasons or the limitless spinning stars. I am in awe of the work I’m engaged in. After 40 years of teaching, I have more questions than ever: How does learning happen? How is it that a group of people can have their lives transformed just by meeting together in a classroom for a few months? What is the force, stronger than the greatest river, that relentlessly carries teaching and learning along? I realized long ago that “I” am not that force. I know that, as a teacher, I don’t actually generate the power of learning. I merely float along, with my students, on this immense river variously called intelligence, or learning, or creativity, or just life. We arrive at the shore of this river each day in my classroom, and together we set off to discover what lies ahead. It’s all a grand and wonderful mystery to me. I pretend I know what I’m doing, but actually I’m just a fellow passenger with my students in a boat called “learning”. I wonder what adventures this year’s trip will bring.

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