Day 70, Tuesday, January 6, 2009
On Teaching like a Grandparent
Probably because I am now an actual grandfather, I’ve been noticing more of a grandfatherly approach in my work with students. I see more equanimity in my demeanor, more of the kind of calmness and composure you might see in an elderly grandpa as he talks with his grandchildren. I seem better able to handle the ups and downs of class, the successes and disappointments. It seems easier, as the years pass, to gently accept what happens during class, in the way a grandmother might quietly understand, but not get drawn into, the ‘dramas’ of her grandchildren’s lives.
I was frustrated at the end of both 9th grade classes today, mostly because of an ongoing sense that I’m not covering enough, that I’m falling behind in my yearlong syllabus. In some ways, this is a legitimate concern, but it also points to a rather self-absorbed approach to teaching. It suggests that I’m perhaps more interested in patting myself on the back than in considering exactly what the students might have learned today. No, I’m not keeping up with my overall plan for the year, and no, my classes didn’t proceed precisely according to plan today, but, instead of fretting over “my” plans, perhaps I should center more attention on the students’ growth during each class. While I was beating myself up during this morning’s classes for falling behind, some of the students might have been gathering in important knowledge that I hadn’t planned for. If I wasn’t so preoccupied with my own success or failure (in the inane melodrama called “Mr. Salsich the Hero-Teacher”) I might be capable of noticing some subtle and beneficial changes occurring within my students right under my nose.