Monday, December 21, 2009
TASTING THE STRAWBERRIES
When my own sense of mediocrity seems to be pursuing me in my teaching work, I sometimes remember an old tale about a woman who is being chased by demons. In her attempts to escape, she arrives at a cliff. She spies a vine hanging over the cliff, and climbs down on it. As she hangs there, hoping the demons above won’t find her, she looks down and sees demons waiting below, and soon she notices a mouse nibbling away at the vine she’s clinging to! Next, however, she sees a bunch of strawberries growing near the vine. She reaches out and tastes the berries. This story is helpful because there are many demons involved in teaching English to fidgety, befuddled, and brooding teenagers, not the least of which is the worrisome feeling that I’m simply a middling, run-of-the-mill teacher. That particular demon seems to enjoy harassing me almost on a daily basis. However, I try to look for the strawberries. No matter how bad things seem to get, no matter how barely so-so my teaching seems to be, there are always some things to celebrate. There’s the boy who smiled when I said his comment about a poem helped me to understand it better. There’s the girl who spoke brilliantly in a discussion after weeks of a dismal kind of silence. There’s the parent who simply said she was glad I was her son’s teacher. When the devils of discouragement are tracking me and I’m hanging over the cliff, I reach out and taste the strawberries.