Day 3: Wednesday, September 10, 2008
A metaphor for the day…
Today, as I was climbing the hill near my house for my morning exercise, I noticed my shadow from the rising sun going ahead of me, and it reminded me of an important truth in teaching -- above all, don’t block the light. This morning my body got in the way of the sunlight, thus throwing a shadow, and I’m afraid I often stand in the way of the light of my scholars’ natural intelligence. By talking too much, or trying to accomplish too much, or forcing the scholars to work too quickly, I only succeed in creating more "shadows" in their lives. Hippocrates told physicians they must, above all, do no harm, and as a teacher, I must, above all, not block the light.
Today I want to do more noticing. One dictionary defines “noticing” as “respectful attention or consideration”, which is what any teacher should give each of his scholars. By that definition, I’m afraid that, in the hustle and turmoil of a typical school day, I often go many minutes without really “noticing” my scholars. The word comes from the Latin “noscere”, meaning “get to know”; perhaps I can truly “get to know” some of my students today.
I noticed two girls walking and talking together this morning, and it made me especially happy because both of them seem to be fairly solitary kids. I’ve already been a little worried about their apparent lack of friends, so it was consoling to see them enjoying each other’s company.
During one of the 9th grade classes, I noticed that one girl was absolutely riveted on me as I was talking. I glanced at her probably six or seven times, and each time her face had the appearance of total attentiveness. I complimented her in front of the class, and I wondered, later, whether perhaps I had failed to notice many other scholars who were equally focused. I’ll try to look for that throughout the rest of the day.
I spoke to some children who had not brought a pencil to class, and I’m afraid there was an unwarranted severity in my voice. There are certainly going to be times this year when I have to “correct” a scholar, but it’s always possible – and absolutely necessary – to do it in a gentle manner. The scholars should detect a very slight but compassionate smile on my face when I’m speaking firmly to them. They need to see that I’m serious about what I’m saying, but that I’m serious because I like them and want them to do well.