Friday, March 12, 2010


         I am not a Christian or a church-going person of any type, but I might still be called a “quietist”, at least in my teaching. “Quietism” was a 17th century Christian movement that encouraged the abandonment of personal will and the quiet acceptance of the way things are, which fairly accurately describes my approach to teaching. As my 40+ years in the classroom have passed, my individual will has continued to slip more and more to the wayside, leaving mostly just an inquisitive interest in what’s going to happen next. I guess I’ve slowly come to realize that, even after all these years, my pocket-sized personal wisdom tells me very little about the real truths of teaching. I’ve learned, too, that there’s another kind of wisdom, an immense kind, that knows everything about teaching, and that I may as well put my little “self” aside and let that wisdom do its good work.  I’m not talking here about “God” or some mysterious supernatural power – just about opening myself up to the wisdom that awaits people who, like the Quietists, finally get their private egos, or wills, out of the way. The education of a human being is a bizarre and bottomless task, and to pretend that I can manipulate it with my own fierce but measly will is the height of craziness. To resist any pedagogical methods except those that I personally like, and to accept only results that I privately sketch out, is mind-boggling foolishness. Instead, these days I quietly listen for understanding as I work through the daily lessons. I try to be more accepting of the countless educational miracles that happen in my classes, most of which I didn’t (and couldn’t possibly) plan for. I hope to gradually understand that being humbly attentive to what’s actually happening is sometimes better than being confidently single-minded about what I want to happen.   

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