Friday, December 25, 2009


    For some reason, I woke up on this Christmas morning with the word “simple” on my mind. Perhaps it was the utter simplicity of the small crèche scene on my coffee table – just a few plain wooden figures looking down at a tiny shape lying on a few blades of grass I pulled from the lawn yesterday. Perhaps it was the desire to find a little reassuring simplicity in the midst of some recent disarray within my family. Or perhaps it was the unadorned grayness of the winter sky. Whatever the reason, the idea of simplicity seemed to shine softly for me on this special morning when so many people celebrate the renewal of plain old-fashioned kindness. I’m not sure why, but, as I was fixing the coffee, I started thinking about the old word “simple-minded”, which used to be employed to refer disparagingly to mentally handicapped people. It occurred to me that perhaps there’s a positive side to being simple-minded -- that perhaps, in fact, it’s a quality I’m gradually and thankfully approaching in my teaching. Perhaps a simple-minded teacher is one who fully understands his overwhelming ignorance when it comes to the complexities of teaching other human beings, and who is willing to accept this handicap. A simple-minded teacher might be a humble teacher, one who realizes that he is an ordinary person attempting to do extraordinary work.  A simple-minded teacher might be a completely unpretentious and unaffected teacher, because he realizes that pretending to understand the intricacies involved in the rocket-science called teaching is a dead-end street.  The simple-minded teacher, perhaps, has taken off the mask of smugness and self-assurance, and stands before his class as a mere mortal – a mystified, anxious, but always inquiring human being. As I sipped my coffee and looked at the roughly carved wooden baby lying on the coffee table on this Christmas morning, being simple-minded seemed to me to be a stroke of good fortune.

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