Saturday, January 19, 2008


C is for Candle flame

In the winter, I often eat breakfast by candlelight, and this morning, as I was observing the small flame in the candle on the table, it got me thinking that it might be good for a teacher to be like that flame. First of all, the flame is flexible, a quality that is immensely helpful to a teacher. The flame constantly wavers as the tiniest air currents pass around it, and I must do the same in my classroom as the currents of thoughts and behaviors circulate around me. It’s interesting that the definition of the word waver includes “to vary or fluctuate” and “to change from a previous opinion”, which suggest the good teacher’s ability to be creatively adaptable as circumstances in the classroom alter (as they constantly do). I also noticed that the candle flame on my table gave off a very soft light, and that, too, reminded me of teaching. The light that emanates from a teacher should never be a glaring, obtrusive light, the kind that either blinds students or makes the teacher the center of attention. Rather, a teacher should simply be a steady but unassuming light that makes it possible for the students to “see” the subject matter more clearly – the kind of soft, suffusing light that one tends to not even notice. Finally, as I looked more closely, I could see that the candle flame was actually transparent and insubstantial. There wasn’t anything solid there, just a fluttering pattern of light and heat, and, in a sense, a teacher shouldn’t be anything “solid” either, for teaching is not about the teacher. A teacher should have an ego the size and substance of a candle flame. As their English teacher for one year, I’m merely one of the countless lights that will shine on my students’ lives. Hopefully I can help to illuminate their path for nine months before I watch them walk away at the end of the year. Like the flame of the candle on my breakfast table this morning, my job as a teacher is simply to bring a soft, supportive light into their young lives.

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