Monday, March 22, 2010


I sometimes think of balloons when I consider the kind of teacher I’d like to be. Teaching adolescents is serious business, but still, shouldn’t there be something blithe and bouncy about it, something as light-hearted as balloons?  I often walk around school like I’m bearing an enormous burden of some sort, as if the entire weight of my students’ academic lives is sitting squarely on my shoulders, but in reality (if only I could remember it), that weight is as buoyant as a balloon. All I need is for a group of friendly, free-and-easy students to sprint past me to the playing fields to remind me of how wispy and insubstantial my responsibilities actually are. I’d be a better teacher if, instead of presenting myself to my students as a slumped over carrier of grave duties and liabilities, I raised myself up and showed some of the grace and frothiness that lucky people should display. Of all the working people in the world, I am among the most fortunate, having only to share my love of language, literature, and life itself with blossoming, rousing teenagers in order to earn a paycheck. What’s weighty about that? What kind of cumbersome burden is that? If the students don’t master the use of gerunds at the age of 14, will that threaten their futures? If they finish my course with just a slender understanding of symbolism in The Tempest, will they slip backwards in the only significant race, the one to satisfaction and self-possession? As a teacher, I hope to be more like a balloon than a battering ram, more light-hearted than heavy-handed. The students don’t need my nagging and badgering as much as they need my help in rising above the tangles of novels and the frustrations of essay writing – rising up and getting freer and freer. 

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