Monday, June 30, 2008


Q is for Quiet Teaching

There are days in the school year when I don’t actually “teach”, but am still very much a teacher. These are the days when my students write essays during class – days when I don’t really present any lessons. I give the instructions for the essays and then usually sit at my desk while the students labor over the assignment. I must admit to feeling a bit blameworthy on these days, as if I’m earning my paycheck too effortlessly, just sitting in a corner of the classroom grading papers while my students toil away. However, as the minutes pass, it usually becomes clear to me, again, that, even though I’m not front-and-center, even though I’m not conducting my students as if they were an orchestra, I am still being a teacher. After all, under my guidance and supervision, the students in my care are spending 45 minutes developing complicated ideas and putting them forward on paper in a reasoned and lucid manner. Because I require them to, they are working with concentration and efficiency to produce essays which exhibit their best thinking and writing skills. What this helps me remember is the old, enduring truth that good teaching can have as much to do with sitting back and permitting as with holding forth and pushing. On in-class essay days, I quietly permit my students to demonstrate their talents. I keep myself silent and out of the way and make it possible for them to show me, and themselves, just how much they can accomplish in a short period of time. On those days, I am without doubt a teacher, though a quiet one simply sitting at a big desk in a corner.

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