Monday, November 10, 2008

Teaching Journal

Day 44, Monday, November 10, 2008


P is for Pendulum Clock

The first sound I heard when I awoke this morning was the ticking of my pendulum wall clock, and, as usual, it brought a wonderful reassurance. No matter what happens in my seemingly serendipitous life, the pendulum keeps swinging and the clock keeps ticking. When my life seems to be rushing forward at a scary speed, the pendulum swings at the same steady pace. Likewise, when my plans seem to have crash landed, the pendulum still serenely ticks at its accustomed tempo. Sometimes I simply stand in front of the clock and admire its calmness and dependability. Even if the electricity goes out in a storm, the pendulum (which is wound by a key) will remain composed and steadfast .... tick, tick, tick, tick. If it could talk, it would say, “Relax, Ham. Never rush, never dawdle. Just keep ticking.” I have the usual ups and downs of any classroom teacher, and I should learn a lesson from my wall clock. When a parent sings my praises, just keep ticking; when a parent rails against me, just keep ticking. When a lesson soars on wings, keep ticking at the same tempo; when a lesson falls and dies, just keep ticking. Perhaps my students might say, “Mr. Salsich is just like a clock. Nothing disturbs him.”

I can’t think of a better compliment for a teacher.

(first draft written in February, 2008)


I was wondering this morning what we actually “make” in English class. Do we build, construct, assemble, or create anything? What is our final product, the artifact we can hold up and be proud of? Certainly we create essays, reader’s journals, class notes, and other such typical academic handiwork, but are these the genuine final goals of our work as students of English, or is there some higher aspiration, some more distant and prized purpose we are working toward? 

     I think there is. For me, learning and teaching English has to do with a very lofty goal – nothing other than the creation of helpful thoughts. All the reading, all the writing, all the note-taking, all the discussions – everything derives from and points toward the unfolding of beneficial ideas. That’s what we’re after in 8th and 9th grade English. We may not cover all the grammar items, and the students may occasionally falter in their application of punctuation rules, but I have no doubt that we will always be involved in the development and refinement of thoughts. I hope, above all, that the scholars will leave my classes in May with an increased ability to produce and cherish ideas that are wonderful enough to transform their lives, and, to some degree, their world.
I rushed one of the classes a bit. I passed back essays, and, instead of allowing them ample time to look over my comments and carefully place the essays in their English binders, I moved on to the next part of the lesson rather quickly, leaving many of the students in the position of having to do two things at once -- listen to me and put their essays away. In my class, I encourage the scholars to only do one thing at a time (mono-tasking, we call it), and yet today I was the instigator of multi-tasking. Bad job, Mr. Salsich. 

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