ONE TEACHER’S ALPHABET
B is for Beech Tree
Walking in the park yesterday, I paused beneath an enormous beech tree, and, before long, I found myself thinking about my role as a teacher. As I gazed up at the almost motionless branches on this breezy afternoon, I thought of the stillness I try to maintain in myself as the students’ young lives are spinning around me in the classroom. Their young-at-heart feelings and thoughts are constantly (though sometimes silently) in motion during class, and it is my important task to remain a center of tranquility in the midst of the youthful hubbub. Like the stately beech in the park, I should be a solid and resilient presence no matter what winds of insight and disagreement might be blowing through the classroom. This is not to say that a teacher should be inflexible or unresponsive. As I observed the massive tree yesterday, I noticed many slight and subtle movements in the leaves and limbs as the tree reacted to the breezes, and a teacher must be similarly responsive to his students. Indeed, I must do my utmost to notice and respond to each of my students’ expressions, be they physical or verbal, but I must also, like the beech, remain basically constant and serene. My “leaves” should constantly be quick to respond to the scholars, while my heart (the trunk of the tree) stays steady and poised. As I stood in the shade of the massive tree yesterday, I thought also of the caring and shielding ambiance a good teacher tries to maintain in the classroom. My scholars’ young lives are beset with a thousand anxieties, and part of my responsibility is to make available a place of peace and wellbeing. This coming year, when I see the scholars entering my classroom, perhaps I’ll think of the kindly old beech tree in the park. Perhaps I’ll be able to offer some responsive and helpful shade to the young learners as they stay alert for the breezes of new ideas.