Wednesday, August 20, 2008


E is for Enlightenment (instead of Excitement)

When someone recently told me they’ve become more interested in enlightenment than excitement, it wasn’t long before I started thinking about my work as a middle school English teacher. In the early years of my teaching career, I was keen on providing lots of “excitement” for the scholars. I guess I thought of myself as more an entertainer than a teacher – more an on-stage performer or a bandleader than a methodical dispenser of daily lessons. I was more interested in classroom “fireworks” than in the plodding and often tedious work of teaching the kids the rudiments of sophisticated reading and writing. In those years I think the scholars generally “liked” my classes, because they tended to be somewhat electrifying. It was known that there was non-stop excitement in Mr. Salsich’s English class. What was lesser known was that there was, sadly, not a great amount of enlightenment. I honestly (it’s hard to admit this) don’t think the kids learned much from me in those years, and I feel embarrassed because of it. Truthfully, for quite some time I was an exciting but thoroughly ineffectual teacher. However, a number of years ago, I began to push the thrills to the background and move actual lessons and learning to center stage. My classes slowly became calmer, more settled, more systematic and constructive. I got off the stage, off the bandstand, and actually started to teach. Nowadays, my scholars would not, I am certain, categorize my classes as “exciting”. I rarely raise my voice -- rarely pontificate, hold forth, preach, or play-act. Mostly I talk quietly with the scholars and do my best to help them learn a particular lesson each day. It’s not exciting, to be sure, but perhaps now and again a bit of enlightenment shines through.

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