Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Day 119, April 1, 2008

Today Jenny came to me, a bit breathless, to excitedly tell me she had read, voluntarily, both Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice over vacation. She was obviously thrilled with her accomplishment. We spent ten minutes or so talking about the plays – our favorite parts, our interpretation of puzzling lines. I told her that in all my long years of teaching I have never had a student who read any Shakespeare play just for fun. Jenny was clearly thrilled to hear that, and she fairly bounced out of my room on her way to her first class.


As so often happens, after yesterday’s very mediocre teaching, I had a perfectly wonderful day of teaching today. The four classes were among the best I can recall. The students were attentive and engaged, and I maintained an alert, helpful, and responsive attitude fairly constantly. Like the weather often does, my teaching changed dramatically from one day to the next – from gloomy and depressing yesterday to fairly bright and promising today.


In an after-school conference today, the parents of one of my students complained quite strongly about one aspect of my teaching, and I’m glad they did. The only way I can learn to be a better teacher is by becoming aware of my shortcomings, and an easy and direct way for that to happen is for someone else to point them out to me. I have always benefited from – and appreciated –negative feedback. Yes, it’s hard to take at first, but almost always I find plain-spoken and honest criticism to be a great service to me. When someone I respect gets “in my face” and tells me the plain truth, I have a chance to learn and grow. Today these parents were sincere and straight-talking. They told me I had made a mistake, and I’m grateful for their honesty. I plan to learn from it.

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