Monday, December 28, 2009
MOMENTOUS AND UNREMARKABLE
More and more, I realize that the work I’m involved in as an English teacher is both momentous and unremarkable, both special and insignificant. When I’m teaching my teenage scholars, I sometimes feel like an engineer carefully designing and constructing rocket ships, and other times like a custodian who’s simply trying to keep things orderly and neat so the students can do their required English tasks. Every so often I feel very special, and just as often downright ordinary – no more special than the nameless people who somehow send electricity to our school each day. I’m honored to be a teacher, yet also humbled to realize that I’m just one of the zillions of forces that educate my students each day. When I’m sitting on my high horse and applauding myself for belonging to such an important profession, I occasionally wake up to the simple truth that I’m merely an infinitesimal grain of soil in the rich loam that instructs the students in the ways of the universe. Each day, they learn about life from every person they meet, sentence they read, sight they see, thought they think, show they watch, song they listen to – and among these literally countless influences is Mr. Salsich’s modest 48-minute English class. My students are gradually and inevitably unfolding as promising young adults, thanks, in very small part, to the tiny grain of soil called “9th grade English class”. I don’t mean to belittle my work as a teacher, for it is just as important as any other work the universe does to prepare young people for adulthood – but no more important. An essay by N. Scott Momaday, studied in English class, might shine a helpful light for a teenager, but so might an episode of “Family Guy”, or a song by Five for Fighting, or the fleeting remark of a friend. My students learn to write formal paragraphs in my class, but is that writing any stronger or more significant than the tumultuous and impassioned Facebook comments they shoot back and forth to each other? Education happens at the hands of this endless universe, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it all – but just a part, and a microscopic one at that.