Day 136, Monday, May 4, 2009
What a difference the passage of thirty years makes. Today I had to speak to the scholars about some unfortunate incidents that occurred on Friday (when I was absent and a substitute teacher was in the classroom), and I was pleased that I was able to express my disapproval in a dignified and disciplined manner. I didn’t lose control – didn’t berate the students, didn’t go on and on, didn’t even raise my voice. I spoke quietly but firmly, gently but decisively. If this is even possible, I felt like I was speaking kindheartedly to them as I shared my severe displeasure with their behavior. This is a complete reversal from the way I would have handled this thirty years ago. Back then, I’m afraid teaching was a ‘power trip’ for me. Probably like many teachers, I enjoyed the feeling of being in control, on top, in charge, the boss – and I think I took pleasure in nothing more than scolding my students when they misbehaved. As a teacher, I was a jerk back then – a loud, overbearing, pompous pretender. I didn’t belong in a classroom. Luckily, I’m a different teacher today. Somehow, I have learned that strength is at its best when it’s mixed with gentleness, and that the greatest power comes from the most genuine humility. I have learned how to express my disapproval to my scholars in a way that also expresses my affection for them. I hope I did that today.