ALERT BUT RELAXED
Like a good driver, a good teacher must stay both alert and relaxed. When driving on an icy road, I have to be watchful for especially slippery sections of the road, but I also have to remain relaxed enough at the wheel to maneuver the car with deftness and flexibility. I have to stay both tense and comfortable. I must be determined, in the sense of being committed to watching every inch of the way ahead, but I must also be open, flexible, and accommodating to whatever the circumstances might provide. I sometimes picture a good driver on a bad road as having furrowed brows (the alertness) but a slight and genuine smile (the relaxation). He’s working hard but still somehow enjoying himself. I picture a teacher in a similar way. Certainly I have to be totally alert to every shade and tone during class. I need to have fifty eyes instead of just two, and a few dozen ears wouldn’t hurt. Thousands of mental and verbal events happen in each class, and I need to be aware of all of them. However, I must always balance my watchfulness with an equal amount of lightness and easing up. Teaching teenagers the rudiments of fine writing and serious literature often resembles navigating a frozen mountain road, and while I’m ever on the alert I also need to be relaxed enough to move the class along the zigzag road that’s always created when free-thinking, restive adolescents come together to discuss the art of speaking from the heart in written words. I need to ‘drive’ the class with the coolest kind of awareness, with an attentiveness that feels like dancing.