ONE YEAR WITH AN ENGLISH TEACHER
Day 81, Friday, January 18, 2008
6: 34 a.m.
Metaphor of the Day: Breathing
Today I want to keep in mind that, in a strange way, the thinking that goes on in my classroom is a lot like breathing. Today my students and I will be thinking and expressing hundreds of ideas during class, and we will simultaneously be listening to and taking in each other's ideas. Giving out, taking in. Giving out, taking in. Our ideas will mingle in the air and then enter each other's minds, much as our breath will mingle and mix all day long. We'll breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, and we'll give out ideas and take new ideas in. Give out, take in. Give out, take in.
I noticed some discreet smiling and silent giggling during one of the classes, and, disappointingly, I let it upset me. I controlled myself and didn't react or confront the girls (they quickly stopped), but I'm disappointed that their behavior unsettled me for a moment. Their behavior was inappropriate, yes, but that doesn't mean it should disturb me. Improper conduct needs to come to a quick stop, but that can happen without me losing any of my sense of calmness. I shouldn't get upset when I have to turn down the burner on my stove at home, and likewise I shouldn't get upset when I have to quietly insist that my students behave with perfect decorum.
This afternoon, another one of my lesson plans fell fairly flat. It wasn't a total disaster, but what I hoped would happen (kids smiling, getting excited, wildly raising their hands) didn't happen. A few kids benefited from the lesson, but just as many seemed like they were on a faraway planet during much of the class.
After that class I had a free period, and at the start, I was feeling pretty downcast as I paced around my empty classroom. However, something strange happened. For some reason, I soon began to think of all the other teachers -- the hundreds and thousands and even millions -- who have experienced the same sense of "failure" that I was feeling. I pictured them in my mind, their discouraged faces and forlorn postures -- these teachers who simply tried to interest their students but failed. Before long, I almost felt like they were there with me in my classroom, and we were all supporting each other in our mutual dejection. I felt a genuine brotherhood and sisterhood of teaching, as if what I had experienced with the botched lesson had actually opened me up to fellowship with my teacher comrades world-wide. I continued in this line of thinking for quite some time, just relaxing in one of my comforting chairs and thinking about all the thousands of teachers with whom I had, in a sense, joined hands today by failing to be the perfect teacher. In the end, as I started to get things in order for my next class, I almost felt grateful that the lesson had crashed. Who wouldn't be grateful to have a door opened in his heart?