Thursday, October 23, 2008

Teaching Journal
Day 32, Thursday, October 23, 2008

On Unselfish Teaching
This morning, as I was putting the finishing touches on my lesson plans and trying to decide whether to give the 9th graders an entire period to work in groups on their collaboration projects, I suddenly understood why I was reluctant to do that. I was simply being selfish. I didn’t want to let the kids work on their own because it would mean I wouldn’t be front and center. I wouldn’t be the star of the show. The scholars would be accomplishing things by themselves without my help, which would mean I would be relegated to the sidelines, the background, the scenery. It made me sad, I must confess – sad that I wasn’t in charge, wasn’t the boss, wasn’t the headliner. It worries me that such selfishness plays a part in my teaching. It worries me that I can so easily forget that teaching is never about the teacher, never about grandstanding, never about trying to build up my ego. Teaching is about students and knowledge, period.

Tomorrow I will allow the 9th graders to work on their own in their groups. I will stand on the sidelines, watching them be the stars of their own wonderful shows.

I gave an in-class essay to the 8th grade classes today, involving an unusual heart-shaped object that I brought from home. I hung it from the ceiling, and, as the kids were writing, I noticed several of them occasionally staring at the heart. It was interesting to see the look of absorption on their faces as they gazed at the heart and searched for ideas for their essays. In one case, a girl’s face seemed to catch the softness of the classroom light as she looked up at the heart. It was a picture of youthful beauty and total concentration.
In the 9th grade classes, we talked, again, about grammatical topics –especially the effective use of repetition in writing – and this time I put up on the screen some passages by Zora Neale Hurston and Ernest Hemingway for analysis. It was great fun (for me, at least) to relate the study of a grammar item to the study of great writers. If the students were able to gain even a glimpse of the fact that grammar plays a part in the graceful writing of the masters, I would be more than satisfied.

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