Day 155, Monday, June 1, 2009
Today a little defensiveness showed up in my teaching – an old nuisance from the past. For many years, I taught like a soldier in a war zone: weapons raised, defenses at the ready. I rarely got angry, and I actually enjoyed my classes immensely, but I was always ready for a fight – ready to pounce on a scholar at the slightest hint of rebellion. I actually knew very little about how to be a good teacher, but I knew (or thought I knew) that it had something to do with war. Over the long years, however, I have gradually learned the truth – that teaching is actually the opposite of fighting. Good teaching has to do with trust instead of suspicion, with cooperation instead of conflict. If I want to do my job properly and with dignity, I have to be willing to put down my defenses and welcome my scholars as colleagues in a vast enterprise. Today, for just a few moments, I forgot to do that. After giving an assignment, I noticed – or thought I noticed – a boy making a frown at another boy, and the thought came to me, in my old defensive way, that I should reprimand him somehow. Fortunately, however, the thought disappeared as quickly as it had come, and I remembered that this teaching business is not combat. It’s not the kids against me. So what if the boy frowned at a friend? What’s the big deal? If we’re all engaged together in the honest pursuit of knowledge, our steady cooperation as scholars and teacher will more than compensate for any trivial and fleeting facial expressions. The petty frustrations will fall to the wayside as the great caravan of learning in Room 2 moves cordially forward.