Wednesday, January 06, 2010


When I awoke this morning, it suddenly occurred to me that, for the past seven hours, I had absolutely no control over anything that happened in my life – and, oddly enough, I immediately thought about my work as an English teacher.  Control is a huge concern in the lives of most teachers. For many of us, a top priority is to feel that we are in control of our classes – that we can organize and manage our lessons and our students so learning takes place. We like having our fingers on the pulse of every part of the learning process, pulling strings here and manipulating there in order to keep the educational process going.  We like to think that if we weren’t at the helm guiding and steering the students toward knowledge, the good ship of learning, at least in our classroom, would drift sadly off course. I like to be in control as much as any of us– but then, what about last night? What about the fact that, while my controlling and manipulating brain was fast asleep for seven hours, an astonishing number of events happened to my life with perfect efficiency? While I was far away from the helm of the ship called “Hamilton”, the ship nonetheless ran with utter perfection – heart pumping accurately, blood coursing along precisely the way it should, lungs filling and deflating without a single mistake, and a trillion cells doing a trillion tasks flawlessly. Not only that, a zillion bazillion other things in the universe occurred quite perfectly in those seven hours with absolutely no help from me. Everything from the bending of grass blades in a breeze to the circling of far-off stars happened while Mr. Salsich, the English teacher, was not in control. The universe danced along quite nicely without any dispensing or administering from me. What does all this mean? Does it mean I should surrender control of my classes and allow them to “do their own thing”? Of course not. On one level, I know it’s imperative that I guide and direct my students, and I take that responsibility with all seriousness. However, from now on I’ll try to keep last night’s sleep-filled but well-organized hours in mind as I go about controlling my students. I’ll try to put it all in perspective – to remember that while I’m at the helm of the wee ship called “9th Grade English”, countless other helms (including those inside my body and outside our galaxy) are under the prudent control of nameless, mysterious, and infinitely wise captains.

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