Thursday, January 08, 2009

Teaching Journal
Day 72, Thursday, January 8, 2009

This morning I temporarily lost track of my goal of never rushing in class – but at least I noticed it fairly quickly and was able to return to my usual placid and meticulous manner of conducting class. At the start of one of the classes, I cut the quiet reading period short – way short – in order to move on to the first step of the lesson. The students noticed it, and almost immediately I sensed some discomfort in the room – as if they noticed that something in English class had suddenly changed – that Mr. Salsich, for some reason, was rushing. I carried on with the lesson, but in the back of my mind I slowly realized the mistake I had made. I saw that, in my haste to cover material as fast as possible, I had forfeited one of the truly profitable aspects of my classes this year – their relative serenity, their freedom from speed and hurriedness. Gradually, as the minutes passed, the usual tranquility of my classes returned (the rushing Mr. Salsich was thankfully gone), and consequently a good deal of quality teaching and learning occurred.

As I was scolding myself, during a free period, for my dreadful teaching earlier in the morning, I happened to notice the message on the rubber stamp on my desk: “Sweet work!” Suddenly my frustrations with my performance as a teacher seemed utterly silly and insignificant. In the tiny, personal, egocentric picture, yes, I was not a wonderful teacher this morning, but in the vast picture of the infinite universe, my teaching –and everything else that happened this morning – was sweet work indeed. The wind blustering outside my classroom was doing sweet work, as was the bird feeder swinging back and forth, as were the bare flower stalks swaying in the wind. The universe can’t do anything BUT sweet work, no matter how hard it is for me to recognize that. In my supposedly bumbling, unsuccessful way, I was a good member of the universe in my classroom this morning. If the class flopped, it flopped in a beautiful and flawless way.

This year I’ve been working on bringing better order to my desk in the classroom. I’ve dedicated myself to the motto “Everything in its proper place”. Disarray is a condition that produces no useful results, and I’m determined to at least reduce its presence in my professional life. As I look out the window of my classroom, I see that nature can teach me some lessons in this regard. Out in the garden, everything is in its proper place. Even the scattered small piles of last week’s snow are just where they should be, as are the seed shells the birds have scattered below the feeder. All is correct and tidy, just like I hope my desk will be.

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