“…a sort of mystery which he was rather proud to think lay outside the sphere of light which enclosed his own understanding.”
-- George Eliot, Daniel Deronda, Ch. 46
I love this quote, because it rather exactly describes a feeling I get nearly every day in the classroom. Teaching teenagers, a vocation I have been lucky enough to call mine for over 40 years now, has gradually become an ever more profound mystery to me. Instead of slowly building an understanding of how to perform this delicate and essential work, the passing years seemed to have slowly stripped away the pretense that I actually know what I’m doing. Little by little, I have been humbled. I now know there’s probably no greater mystery than the art of teaching young people, and at present, at the age of 68, I humbly knock on the door of this mystery before every class. I don’t mean that I’ consider myself a failure as a teacher. For sure, I have learned countless techniques, tools, methods, systems, and procedures, and these do appear to have moved my hundreds (thousands?) of students fairly smoothly along the track of formal education – but none of that really touches the mysteries involved in teaching kids. For the most part, formal school curricula run only across the surface of students’ lives, while their true verve and vivacity goes on blossoming and exploding far beneath. I’ve been playing a fairly good game of English teaching over the years, but all the while the mysteries involved in educating human beings have grown gradually larger and foggier. Actually, though, in a strange sort of way, I feel proud that I’m involved in such a mystifying profession – proud that a vast body of knowledge still lies “outside the sphere of light which encloses [my] own understanding”. It makes me feel honored to know that I’m at the center, each day in Room 2, of an immeasurable enigma, a colossal riddle – honored, I guess, that I’ve been allowed to be part of it day after day, year after year.
© 2010 Hamilton Salsich