“I looked upon these things
As from a distance; heard, and saw, and felt,
Was touched, but with no intimate concern…”
--Wordsworth, The Prelude, Book VI
There is no such word as “impersonalness”, but it helps me say what I want to say – that teaching should be as impersonal as possible. Helping students realize their potential should in no way be influenced by, or hinge on, my personality, my ego, or my sense of self. In fact, my sense of myself as a separate person who needs to “succeed” as a teacher can only hinder my work in the classroom. Only by seeing teaching and learning as something way beyond individual personalities – something much bigger than egos and self-images – can I hope to feel the full force of the learning process. It has always seemed to me that breaking through the sense of separateness and isolation is the fastest way to open the door to learning. When my students struggle with the educational process, it’s often because they are seeing themselves as disconnected, cut-off individuals fighting to gather knowledge as though it were rare flakes of gold. They struggle because they see the learning process as being very personal – their small, frail, limited personal talents pitted against the vast universe of facts and data. What I hope to do is help the students see the process in a very different way – not as a personal struggle but as a kind of harmonious swirl of ideas. By “harmonious” I don’t mean that no work is involved in the learning process – just that the work can be pleasant rather than painful. By getting our egos out of the way (as much as is possible in this ego-obsessed era) both the students and I could perhaps relax and truly enjoy our education. We could, perhaps, look upon our education “[as] from a distance” – as a curious adventure we are part of, but one that we can also dispassionately observe and appreciate. We could teach and learn “with no intimate concern” – no worries about our self-esteem or reputation, but with a simple sense of gratitude for the wonder of it all.
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