Saturday, December 19, 2009


    I have a friend who enjoys advising me to “lighten up”, and I appreciate his reminders, because I tend to carry my responsibilities – including teaching – as if they are terribly burdensome loads. The task of teaching teenagers how to read deeply and write stylishly often makes me feel like I’m hauling a heavy weight, and I usually drag the weight home with me each night, and sometimes even lug it around my apartment on weekends. Strangely, I think I secretly enjoy this feeling of being the overtaxed but devoted educational laborer. The heavier my teaching responsibilities feel, the more seriously I take my profession, and myself. Subconsciously, I probably think of myself as a superman of some sort, a “champion of young people”, a valiant man who’s willing to make great sacrifices for his students. It’s precisely this pompous, humorless attitude that thoroughly exasperates my friend . “Lighten up, Salsich!” he will say. He’ll then remind me that I’m merely one infinitesimal breeze in the great wind of my students’ education, that what I can teach them is like a tiny drop in the endless ocean of learning, that I’m every bit as ignorant as they are, just in different ways, and that if I dropped dead today, their academic lives would sail wonderfully on without me. And then he’ll offer his most important advice: “Laugh at yourself, Salsich. Laugh at your preposterous self-importance. Laugh especially when your teaching falls flat on its face. Lighten up and laugh – and then maybe you’ll finally be on your way to being a half-way decent teacher.”

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