As often as possible, I like to sit in different chairs around the classroom, often right amongst the students, just to offer myself as many perspectives as possible. My usual “teacher” chair is a soft, adjustable one, but this morning I sat in one of the student’s regular chairs, and it was a sizeable change for me. It was lower, for one thing, so I felt smaller and, I guess, less significant, less necessary. It momentarily sent me back fifty years to the time when, like many of my students, I was a somewhat unsure and hesitant kid trying his best to stay out of sight in the classroom. As I sat in the lower chair this morning, I felt again that sense of being just another unremarkable student in the vast apparatus of official education. Earlier in the week I sat in a chair facing the windows, from where I could see blossoming bushes and trees, as well as birds being their full-of-life springtime selves. It was a revelation for me, because I found my attention strongly drawn away from my own lesson plan and toward the look of the outdoors, especially the goldfinches flying back and forth like little flames. As the teacher, I was perhaps the most distracted student in the classroom for a few moments. The Tempest was not nearly as fascinating as the irrepressible life I was looking at through the window. On another occasion, when I was sitting among the students and surrounded by four hulking boys, I had this sense of being a small hill among mountains. At one point, the boys coughed almost in unison, and I’m sure I recall thinking of quakes and upheavals as I felt the force and noise of their coughs. It was an efficient reminder to me that a teacher should be a sturdy leader out front, yes, but also, now and then, a student among his students, struggling like them to respond to surprises and stay alert, striving like them to feel the flow of at least a little confidence.
© 2010 Hamilton Salsich