Sunday, April 27, 2008


C is for Counteraction

Here is a quote from Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park that turns my thoughts to teaching: “A counteraction, gentle and continual, is the best safeguard of manners and conduct.” Isn’t that what a conscientious teacher of adolescents occasionally has to be – a “counteraction” to the sometimes unruly habits of his students? The students’ rambunctious energies often flow in unhelpful directions, but the teacher’s “gentle and continual” contrasting energies gradually steer the students in more advantageous directions. Of course, for me the most important word in Austen’s sentence is “gentle”. The diligent teacher always prefers leading by kindness rather than by fear – and not in sporadic bursts, but as “continual” as a quietly flowing river.

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