Monday, June 15, 2009

"Broom Closet", watercolor, by Andy Smith


R is for Reserved

Being a reserved teacher is one of my professional goals, but that wasn’t always the case. In my early years in the classroom, I was anything but reserved in my words and actions. Back then, I thought teaching was all about getting scholars excited, and that meant teaching them with fervor that bordered on frenzy. I didn’t know the meaning of self-possession or moderation. Ranging around the classroom like a mishmash of preacher and clown, I was effusive and vociferous in an obsessive way. Now, it's different. Now I treasure the discipline that has enabled me to be a soft and understanding force in the classroom instead of a hard and reckless one. I’m a quiet teacher the way certain rivers are quiet: they flow irresistibly onward but boaters hardly notice the power. I try to be restrained like morning is restrained: daylight arrives almost imperceptibly, which is exactly the way I try to teach. The word ‘reserved’ can also refer to something that is set apart for a future or special use, and sometimes that’s how I see myself in my classroom. I want to be held in reserve, in the background, ready for any situation where the scholars need some particular guidance or support. They should be the center of attention, not me. I’m the searchlight they can use to find truths in a sudden darkness, the pickaxe they can occasionally wield to break through an obdurate story or poem. The scholars are the craftsmen, and I’m the tools in the toolbox, the broom in the closet (see painting above). As they create their interpretations and understandings each day in English class, I remain nearby, quiet and reserved, like the silent overhead lights that make things easier to see and appreciate.

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