Monday, April 05, 2010


On the surface, it may appear that there is only one teacher in
my 9th grade English class, but actually the number of teachers  is
incalculable, even infinite. Of course, on days when I’m inattentive
to what’s actually happening, I pretend that I am the only
teacher – that all the English learning depends entirely on my
ability to cause it to happen. I say it’s “my” class and the kids
are “my” students, as though I am solely responsible for the ongoing
expansion of the students’ ability to think, read, and write.  That,
unfortunately, was my attitude for the early part of my
teaching career: I was the sole teacher, and any learning in my class
was primarily my responsibility. Now, with the passage of more than
forty years, I see clearly the folly of such thinking. To consider
myself the only teacher in my English class is about as foolish as
thinking clouds are the only cause of the rain.  Moisture-laden
clouds might be the immediate cause of rain, but the line of linked
causes that created the clouds extends back into the endless past,
and the line of causes that ultimately produce learning in my
classes is just as immeasurable. I might be the most direct cause of
learning, but how many countless causes worked together to create
me, with my particular knowledge and abilities, and then enabled
me to be in Room 2 on a given day at a given hour in the year
2010? And how could we possibly count the forces that worked to
bring the students, with all their distinctive and diverse capabilities,
to my classroom at any given moment in time? Trying to identify the
one and only cause would be as silly as identifying one drop of water
as the sole cause of high waves at sea. As their “official” teacher, in
truth I am only a drop of water in the immense sea of my students’
English education. I cause things to happen the way a drop of water
does—by being a steadfast but modest part of an endless,
unfathomable enterprise.        

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