Day 86, Monday, February 2, 2009
This afternoon during study hall in the library, I decided to do absolutely nothing for a few minutes. I put down my books, set aside the papers that needed grading, put my red pen away, and just walked quietly up and down the rows of books. The students were busy with their work, so I don’t think many of them noticed an elderly teacher strolling musingly among the books. It was a serene and restorative few moments for me. Instead of doing anything, I guess I was just living – just being alive, just breathing, seeing, hearing, thinking, just letting things happen instead of making things happen. It was a brief respite from the rush of the workday – a time when thoughts came and went as quietly and effortlessly as clouds pass above us.
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A friend once told me he was trying not to do so much I-ing and my-ing, and today I felt like I should follow his advice. It wasn’t an especially grand day of teaching for me. I seemed to lurch and falter through one lesson, and in all the classes, some of the students seemed on the threshold of sleep. In between classes, I berated myself about my teaching, as I often do – and I used the word “I” and “my” quite often. Later, I realized what I was doing, and I thought about what my friend had said. I was focusing on myself instead of the students. I was kicking myself because I wouldn’t win any awards for teaching today, instead of praising the students’ good behavior and reviewing their accomplishments in class. It was all about me instead all about education. Yes, it’s good to review my work at the end of the day to see what improvements can be made, but it must be done with a view toward helping the students learn more, not toward helping me feel better about myself. There’s a fine line between wanting to become a better teacher and wanting to pat myself on the back more, and today I was on the wrong side of that line.