Watching a tree’s limbs sway in a breeze this morning made me think of an important quality I’ve tried to develop as a teacher. Breezes of a different kind – breezes born of teenage thoughts and feelings – are always blowing here and there in my classroom, and I need to be bendable enough to sway with them. The stiff, obstinate tree limbs are the ones that sometimes snap in good winds, and something similar holds true for teachers. My students bring their serendipitous, blustery minds to class each day, and I must be loose enough to deal with whatever mental weather develops during class. It heartens me to look at several enormous old trees near my house, because they remind me, as their elderly limbs effortlessly lift and fall in various winds, that certain kinds of suppleness can actually increase as the years pass. I’ve been teaching for four decades, and, in these senior years, my body doesn’t bend with the ease of the old days, but my mind and heart, surprisingly, seem looser than ever. The old beech tree down the street sways its branches with grace and style, and I’m finding, as the years pass, that my thoughts and feelings sway better than ever in the classroom. Whatever winds the kids let loose in the room, my mind seems to know what to do – not stiffen and grow stubborn, but simply lean and swing, lean and swing.
© 2010 Hamilton Salsich