Monday, June 08, 2009

"Sunset Ride", oil on masonite, by Candy Barr

Teaching Journal

Day 160, Monday, June 8, 2009


     I made it a point today to not be a ‘blurter’ in class – to not always speak my thoughts as soon as they arose. Strangely, it’s one of my disconcerting habits that’s been hardest to break. For the first three decades of my teaching career, I was the best of the blurters. I taught in a freestyle way, shooting from the hip. Words flew off my lips as fast as thoughts arose in my mind. In a way, I was an out-of-control teacher, a cowboy riding the range of English teaching, and I let my horse -- my mouth -- go pretty much wherever it wanted. It’s been a hard habit to break, but today I reined in my impulsive voice fairly well. It’s important to me, because teaching is about discipline, self-control, quietness, and – most of all – selflessness. A teacher who blurts is a teacher who thinks too much of himself – thinks his  thoughts and words are way more important than they actually are. As the years have passed, I’ve learned that my thoughts and words are just very small parts of the infinite process called teaching and learning. Consequently, I’ve tried to put my ‘self’ farther and farther in the background in order to allow the other important educational forces to do their quiet work. I’ve tightened the reins on my words. I now speak more slowly, more quietly, and much less often than I used to. An old maxim says that a good teacher speaks only when a student asks a question, and that’s the kind of teaching I’m aiming for. The more I move toward silence, the more my scholars will be able to speak. Today, because I avoided blurting, I probably said half the number of words I said yesterday. Maybe tomorrow I can cut it in half again. Maybe a silent teacher in Room 2 isn’t too far away.  

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