Day 39, November 3, 2008
“Gilding the Lily”
When we “gild the lily”, we try to make something beautiful that already is beautiful, a mistake I make over and over again in my teaching. I constantly worry about whether my teaching is “good enough”. Are the students learning enough about reading and developing enough skills as writers? Is my lesson for today sufficiently detailed? Did I do a good enough job as a teacher today? These kinds of concerns can be healthy, of course, but they can also suggest a mistakenly egocentric understanding of the nature of teaching and learning. Whether my scholars learn and grow and become thriving adult readers and writers is not dependent on the meager efforts of an individual teacher called Mr. Salsich. The wonderful fact is that the scholars are always learning and growing and thriving, no matter what I’m doing as their teacher. I could come to class in a Halloween costume and tell jokes all day, and the boys and girls’ lives would continue to flourish. I don’t mean to disparage my good efforts as an English teacher. I carefully plan lessons and try my best to be an effective teacher, and I’m sure I have some effect on the students’ development. However, the scholars are already amazing young people when they come to my classroom each day. They are easily as beautiful, in their own way, as the most resplendent lily. Therefore, for me to be overly worried about how my good or bad teaching will affect them is a little like worrying about gilding a lily. Neither flowers nor people need to be gilded. The first and best thing to do in the presence of lilies and young English scholars is not to try to change them, but simply to admire them.
Ah, the comforts of hot water on a chilly day in English class! Today the designated student servers began offering hot water and tiny cookies (two apiece) to the scholars in my classroom. I plugged in the big hot water pot in the early morning, and it sang softly while I was doing last minute preparations for class. By the time the first students came for class, the water was steaming and all was ready for some comfortable (perhaps even comforting) teaching and learning. Some of the students brought hot chocolate powder and others brought tea bags. As we all read silently for the first few minutes of class, the servers passed quietly among us with the refreshments. I heard many quiet "thank you's" as I sipped my tea.