Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Yesterday I had what people call “a bad day”, and I found myself growing discouraged about my teaching. I felt that I wasn’t doing a good job as a teacher – that I was getting disorganized, that I was falling behind in my syllabus, that perhaps the students were growing discontented and confused. I berated myself for most of the afternoon. I saw myself as a teacher who was maybe on the downhill run toward mediocrity and retirement. Luckily, though, on the drive home from school, an enlightening and comforting thought came to me. I don’t know why, but I started thinking of the ocean, with its swirling currents and tumbling waves and varying weathers and conditions, and it occurred to me that the ocean cannot have a bad day. No one would look out at the sea and say, “Gosh, the ocean is not doing well today. It’s not being a very good ocean.” No...the ocean is always just being the ocean, and whatever it happens to be doing is precisely what it should be doing. The ocean, in that sense, is always a perfect ocean. Whatever its condition -- whether there are storms, sunshine, calmness, choppiness, swells, or stillness -- the ocean is always a flawless ocean. This was a reassuring thought. It helped me see that, at every moment, what is happening in my life is just as perfect as the ocean. Whatever is being said or thought or done is exactly what should be said or thought or done. It isn’t good or bad, it's just the way things are. I also saw that my discouragement as a teacher yesterday stemmed from focusing on “me” instead of on the “ocean” of education of which I am merely a part. I saw that thinking that “I” was failing as a teacher was as silly as thinking that a particular wave in the ocean could “fail” as a wave. The wave has no choice but to be one special wave in the special and vast sea, and I have no choice, really, but to be a meaningful part of the infinite sea of teaching and learning. I don’t mean to suggest that I am some kind of super-teacher. Quite the opposite. Good teaching, in fact, has nothing to do with some “me” or “I”. It’s about an endless and unfathomable process, of which we individual teachers are just one small part. Taken as a whole, it’s a process that’s seamless and magnificent. Yesterday, I tried my best, and the universe tried its best. What more can I ask for? What was happening in the ocean and in my classroom yesterday was what should have been happening, and it will be again today. It’s the way it has to be. It’s the law.

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