Saturday, November 28, 2009
As a teacher, I hope I’m not uninterested or uninteresting, but I've striven over the years to be more and more disinterested. In fact, it’s been one of my major goals as a teacher – to not be influenced by considerations of personal advantage (one dictionary’s definition). One of the great temptations for a teacher (at least this one) is to think of the work as a personal mission, an opportunity to use special, individual talents to help the students –- a temptation I’ve been fighting for 40+ years. For me, the problem with that personal approach to teaching is that I can easily end up thinking as much about my success as a teacher as about the kids’ success as students. At the end of a day, I can find myself admiring the feats of my teaching more than the achievements of my students. I want my teaching to be as impersonal as possible – as impersonal as a summer breeze that cools us and then passes by. I want to be disinterested in the sense of not caring whether I made a brilliant lesson plan, or whether the students might think I was a good teacher, or even whether I was a better teacher today than yesterday. Notice all the ‘I’s in that sentence – and that’s where the danger lies. Truly disinterested teachers have lost the ‘I’ in their teaching. They are like the sunlight in the classroom – invisible, in a sense, but universally supportive and reassuring. They know that education is like the great air around us, and they are but small winds and currents passing among the students for a few months and then disappearing.