Day 142, Tuesday, May 12, 2009
This morning before school I began thinking about the phrase “don’t take it personally”, and I realized, as I often have, that it’s very good advice for a teacher. One of the mistakes I still make is to think of myself as a separate ‘person’ who is engaged in presenting educational material to other ‘persons’. According to this way of thinking, it’s me over here and the scholars over there. What this leads to, inevitably, is one of two feelings: either I’ve been successful as a teacher, or unsuccessful. Either way, I’m taking teaching ‘personally’, which inevitably leads, at least occasionally, to disappointment and discouragement. A better way is to realize that education is not a limited, orderly, and logical enterprise between two people, a teacher and a scholar, but rather a vast and enigmatic whirlwind that involves innumerable forces and has no beginning and no ending. What I do in my classroom with my scholars is one infinitesimal aspect of the limitless process called education. It’s not a ‘personal’ project, but a universal one. Its success doesn’t depend on little ‘me’ in a small classroom in a small town in Connecticut. It depends, rather, on the success of the entire universe, and the universe has been enjoying success for about 15 billion years now. Taking my work ‘personally’ would be like a wave in the ocean taking its work personally – trying its best to be the best wave it can be for the betterment of the ocean. A wave, if I can put it this way, needs to remember that it’s part of a boundless and already perfect ocean, and I need to remember that I’m part of a process without end called teaching and learning.