Day 5: Friday, September 12, 2008
ONE TEACHER’S ALPHABET
L is for Local
In some ways, my English classes could be called “locals”, in the sense of "local" subways in the city. My classes are not “express” classes – not programmed to race along to get to some selected destination as quickly as possible. Like local trains, we move at a moderate pace in English class, stopping whenever necessary along the way to welcome aboard new ideas – and perhaps to say goodbye to ideas we’ve spent enough time with for now. Scholars won’t prosper in my classes if they’re in a hurry. We’re more interested in thoroughness than in quickness. In addition, my classes are “local” in the sense that they relate to a specific, particular area of knowledge. A local government is concerned only with the affairs of a relatively small region, and my English classes deal only with the issues related to reading, writing, and speaking. I frequently remind myself that I don’t have to teach the children how to be successful in life – only how to be successful scholars of their language. My responsibility, in the big picture, is quite small – even infinitesimal. I’m one diminutive wave in the vast ocean of the scholars’ lives. Finally – and unfortunately – my classes are sometimes “local” the way some anesthetics are. No child actually falls asleep during English class (or have they??), but many, I’m sure, fall under the spell of a local anesthetic called “teacher dullness”. They may be sitting up straight and looking at me while I’m talking, but part of them is sometimes sound asleep under the influence of my occasional verbosity. As some riders do even on a local subway, the scholars probably manage to occasionally get in some refreshing daydreaming during Mr. Salsich’s English classes.
A girl who’s been struggling during this first week of school was a spirited scholar in English class this morning. Her hand was raised almost constantly. I could tell that she often wasn’t exactly sure what she was going to say, but she continued to courageously venture an answer. I praised her often, and I hope her success today provides a useful lift for her confidence.
I was surprised today when one of the shyest of all my scholars volunteered to serve refreshments during class. No one had been previously assigned, and when I asked for a volunteer, her hand instantly went up. She quietly and efficiently carried out her duties, coming around with a tray of cups of ice-water and a bowl of whole wheat crackers. It was inspiring to see.
During one class, one of the boys received effusive praise from his peers for his work on one of the class blogs. With the projector, we took a look at what he had done, and I heard many oohs and aahs as I read what he had written on the blog. Several kids raised their hands to offer their compliments.
I noticed a normally cheery boy looking fairly glum during class. I carried on with my lesson, but I couldn’t avoid noting his downcast expression, and at the end of the period, he walked out with sorrowful eyes and lowered head. Who knows what special suffering he was experiencing? In the midst of my lesson on parts of a sentence, this boy was living through something that had swept his happiness away.