Saturday, February 13, 2010


It came to me today that teaching is somewhat like tossing pebbles from a boat into a lake. During each 48-minute class period, I sit in my tiny teacher-boat and throw stone after stone into the vast lake of my students’ lives. I toss in steps in the lesson, suggestions, statements, questions, reminders, reprimands, commands, and demands – one after the other, dozens and hundreds, maybe more than a thousand pebbles in each class. What’s interesting to realize is that every one of these pebbles has an effect on the students, just as every pebble sends out ripples in a lake.  All the hundreds of words I speak, gestures I make, smiles and frowns I show, are small rocks that splash inside the students’ minds and hearts and instantly send small waves rippling out.  It’s impossible to say what kind of effect these ripples will ultimately have on my students, but that they will  have an effect is beyond question. Every ripple in a lake alters the lake, if only in the tiniest ways, and every pebble I flip out to my students modifies their young, sensitive lives, if just in minuscule and marginal ways. As I thought about this today, the unpredictability and uncertainty of it all was slightly unsettling. The truth is that most of the words, gestures, and expressions I use during class are casual, haphazard events. I plan a careful lesson each day, but once class starts, I begin tossing pebbles just about as fast as I can think. It’s a wonder my figurative teacher-boat doesn’t swamp and sink each day, what with all my arbitrary and incessant pebble-tossing.  Maybe I can change. Maybe I can slow down enough to at least periodically use some care in selecting a pebble, and maybe I can occasionally pause, just for a second or two, to see how the ripples shape themselves and start rolling out to some distant shore.

No comments: