Friday, June 20, 2008


I is for Innocence

There are several ways in which innocence can work its understated magic in my classroom. First, it’s essential that I continually recognize the fact that my students (with very rare exceptions) are thoroughly innocuous and harmless – in other words, innocent. Their paltry misbehaviors, while sometimes seeming to be hostile and hazardous to classroom welfare, are actually nothing more than the totally safe gesticulations of vivacious youth. If I could keep that thought front and center, any passing mischief in my classroom would be just that – an innocent and fleeting deed of rebellion that passes away before it is even noticed. Another important role of innocence in the teaching and learning process has to do with its relationship to ignorance. In one definition of the word, a person who is “innocent” is said to be ignorant of something, as in these sentences: American tourists are often wholly innocent of French ... and She remained innocent of the complications she had caused. As odd as it may seem, I would like to foster this kind of innocence in both my students and me. I would like us to always remember that ignorance is good, not bad, because it’s what allows us to see the world, freshly and innocently, as the vast mystery that it is. I stand by the old axiom that the wisest people are the people who know how little they know. I want my students to know that it's perfectly acceptable not to know, because then they have room for knowing. I want to develop that kind of humble wisdom in my students and myself – the wisdom that stands before the bewildering universe in utter innocence. Finally, as a teacher, I would like to be innocent in the sense of artless – completely lacking in guile or deception. I have little tolerance for the trickery I sense in the use of sarcasm, cynicism, and certain kinds of teasing with students. The Shakers sang that it’s a gift to be simple, and I want to demonstrate in my teaching the simplicity of ingenuousness. I want to purely be me, just old Mr. Salsich -- simple, straightforward, innocent.

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