Tuesday, July 22, 2008


D is for Discouragement

I often grow discouraged about my teaching, but, after thinking about it for awhile, I usually realize that my discouragement grew out of nothing other than mere selfishness. I was down on myself because “I” wasn’t performing as well as I thought I should. (Notice all the ‘I’s in that sentence.) My discouragement was all about me, not really about the kids. I was thinking more about my own standing as a teacher than I was about whether my scholars were learning anything. What I have to start reminding myself, when that happens, is that there’s no room for selfishness in teaching. If I see teaching as being about a separate, isolated, physical self called “a teacher” organizing lessons and manipulating other separate, isolated, physical selves called “students”, then I simply don’t understand the nature of teaching. There’s no selfishness involved in genuine teaching because there are no separate selves involved. Teaching is all about the vast universe (of which my students and I are a part) going about its timeless business of taking care of itself. In order to be a good teacher, I don’t have to do anything “by myself”. I don’t have to sit alone and plan lessons and take sole and lonely responsibility for educating the scholars. That would sort of be like one finger on my hand deciding that it alone is responsible for keeping my body in working order. When I’m doing my work as a teacher, the entire universe is working with me. With the aid of the millions of teachers who have come before me, I plan my lessons; with the help of the countless books I’ve read about teaching, I carry out my duties in the classroom. I don’t need to struggle (and thus become discouraged) all by myself. All I have to do, tomorrow and every other day, is relax and let the universe –which includes my scholars and me -- do its wonderful work.

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