GENTLENESS AND GENUINENESS
Over the long years of my classroom career, perhaps the biggest change in my teaching style has been a gradual increase in gentleness. I used to be an aggressive and confrontational teacher; now I tend to be affable and conciliatory. I’ve moved down from the jagged peaks of brusqueness to the valley of easygoingness. I guess I’ve slowly learned that friendliness makes better scholars than belligerence. What’s interesting to me is that I believe I’m now a more genuine teacher, one who has a more authentic and honest classroom manner. In the past, when I was making classroom proclamations and assertions in my typically ostentatious manner, I was playing a role I thought I needed to play. I was an actor and the scholars were the audience. I was as far from being my true self as August is from December. Now, thank goodness, I’m just me – just an honestly unpresumptuous teacher who often hasn’t a clue what he should do next, but who knows this teaching profession is the greatest work in the world. Instead of playing some counterfeit role, I’m playing the happy and chancy game called teaching. Some days I win, some days I lose, but either way, I do it with gentleness. It seems to me, after all these years, that gentleness is the only proper approach to my work with teenagers. Only people who know (or think they know) all the answers to all the questions use force and belligerence to make things happen. I know almost no answers, so I use gentleness. Like a little breeze, I blow around the classroom, in and out among the scholars, hoping I can stir up some new thoughts and waft a little learning along.