Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Teaching Journal
Day 49, Tuesday, November 18, 2008

“A Drop in the Bucket”
I often have to remind myself that what I’m doing as a middle school English teacher is only “a drop in the bucket” when it comes to the really big picture of my students’ education. There’s no question that the boys and girls in my English classes are learning a few skills and facts, but they’ve been learning skills and facts since the day they were born. By the time they arrive at my classroom, they’ve already discovered countless truths and become skilled at innumerable tasks. What they’ve learned by the age of 13 is like an enormous lake, compared to which my scanty instruction a few minutes each day is like a miniscule puddle. The universe of learning is vast – infinite, in fact. It’s a “bucket” of limitless proportions, into which I might be able, on the best days, to place a few drops for the scholars in my classes. 
This morning some students came to class without a book I had planned to use (I had forgotten to tell them yesterday to bring it), and so I asked them to quietly go to their lockers. As I stood in the hall and listened to them chatting and opening and closing their locker doors, I realized there might be some benefits in the situation. For one, the children were getting a few extra minutes of relaxation in a day filled with attentiveness and stress. They rush from class to class for six or more hours during a typical day, so a couple of hassle-free moments in the hall might be just what the doctor ordered. Who knows, they might be more attentive in my class precisely because they left a book in their locker and had the pleasure of a peaceable stroll down the hall.
We had only a few minutes for our literary discussions today, but they were focused and productive minutes. I wonder why I worry so much about the length of discussions. If I was fortunate enough to observe a hawk sailing in the sky for just ten minutes, would I complain?

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