ONE YEAR WITH AN ENGLISH TEACHER
Day 96, Monday, February 11, 2008
Today I found myself falling way behind in the plans I had set for my 8th grade classes. Students had questions and concerns about one thing and another, and before fifteen minutes had passed, I was ten minutes behind my schedule. I felt the beginnings of the old familiar panic setting in ("Oh my god, I'm never going to get anything accomplished!" etc., etc.), but fairly quickly I brought myself under control. It was like a voice inside said, "It's no big deal, Ham. NO BIG DEAL." And of course, it wasn't a big deal. The fact that my carefully designed lesson was thrown a bit off track had nothing to do with whether the class would be successful -- whether the students would benefit from it and leave my room feeling a little uplifted and a little better educated. So often teaching can become a personal thing, sort of an ego-trip, and I felt that happening this morning when my precious lesson plan swerved off course. The truth is that good teaching and genuine learning have very little to do with egos and everything to do with following the flow of learning wherever it might lead. In that sense, teaching is very much like floating down an immense river. (I have often pondered this analogy.) We make our plans, yes, but we must always be ready to let the river show us a better way, perhaps take us down a previously unseen tributary. My narrow and limited lesson plans can't compare in breadth and depth to what the great river of learning can show me, if I keep my mind alert. This morning the river flowed in odd ways, and fortunately I was able to sit back and see where it led. In the end, it led in due time back to my planned lesson, and the classes ended on a successful note.