In my work as a middle school English teacher, I often find myself looking inward and downward, when I probably should be looking outward and upward. On those days when I’m looking inward, I’m almost obsessively focused on how I am feeling, how I am doing as a teacher, what I should be doing next – and when I’m looking downward, I’m seeing only the comparatively minuscule lesson I’m trying to teach. If I were a cartoonist, I would draw myself, on those narrow, introverted days, with my head turned completely down toward my chest, as if I were trying to see inside myself. The students and the grand, far-reaching world are somewhere in front of me, but I’m seeing only the constricted confines of a tiny self and a single modest lesson plan. Sadly, because I see only a very small picture on those days, I miss another picture that’s actually immeasurable in scope. If I could look a little more outward, I might actually see my full-of-life students in all their inimitability, and if I turned my gaze upward, I could perhaps catch sight of the immense overall landscape of this educational process we’re all engaged in. It would be like climbing a tree to the top to see the unbroken countryside, instead of sitting at the bottom with my head in my arms. This reminds me, actually, of my tree-climbing days as a kid -- days when I was never satisfied with a slim, limited view of things. As a 12-year-old, turning inward and downward would have seemed utterly foolish, because, for me, the vast, unrolling prairie of my young life required going outside and getting up high. I was nearly always heading out and climbing skyward, nestled in tree branches or on high hills, seeing the vistas. Unfortunately, there are no trees in my classroom, but there are other ways to turn away from my skimpy self and see what the wide world in Room 2 looks like.
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