Monday, October 06, 2008

Teaching Journal 08-09

Day 20, Monday, October 06

R is for Responsibility

In my teaching today, I want to work on doing more responding than reacting. I want to be a responsible teacher, one who (to use the literal meaning of the word) is “able to respond” to his scholars. So often in class, I react rather than respond, as if the words and actions of my students are solid objects that “hit” me and cause a reaction of one sort or another. During the course of a school day, my scholars’ actions and words come from all directions in a continuous flow, but I sometimes see them, I think, more as a congenial kind of barrage – a friendly but steady battering which requires a multitude of reactions from me. Today I would like to see the events in my classes differently -- more as a flowing river than a drumming volley – and I would like to respond rather than react. There’s a softness in the idea of responding (I hear it even in the sound of the word), and I want to bring that softness to class today. It’s the softness that welcomes instead of resists, and marvels at instead of judges. It’s the softness that knows that life is more like a vast and generous ocean than a steep, rock-hard hill. I like the fact that the word “respond” comes from the Latin for “make a promise again”, because it reminds me that teaching is a lot about promising. When a student says or does something (or when I say or do something), I promise to accept it, take it in, appreciate it, and respond to it. I promise to be a responsible teacher – to be soft in a strong way rather than hard in a weak way. In this world that must often seem inflexible and unfeeling to the young scholars, it’s the kind of teacher they might want – and need.


During one class this morning, I watched carefully to see which students were really focused, and -- as I expected -- many were. Lately, I'm realizing more and more how very difficult it is for young people (or anyone, for that matter) to stay attentive to the matter at hand, and so I'm somewhat amazed that many of the scholars were so alert this morning . Several pairs of eyes seemed to be always directly on me when I was talking, and I complimented them for that. It's something we're all working on, the students and I together -- slowly strengthening our ability to be attentive to exactly what's happening in front of us. (I am often very inattentive at faculty meetings, so I have much work to do myself.)

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