I recall a friend telling me years ago that a good way to live is to always pretend you’re holding a spoonful of water in your hand while wearing a silly costume The point she was making, I think, is that it’s important to be 100 percent focused, no matter what we’re doing, but also 100 percent wild and crazy. The focus gives us the ability to be totally present with the task at hand, while the craziness enables us to feel the wideness and elasticity of the situation. I thought of this today in a 9th grade class, because it came to me that I had forgotten the silly costume. I was holding the spoonful of water, all right – utterly focused on the lesson I had planned, keeping my sights on the next steps, never wavering from what I had arranged to do. I was holding the spoonful of the lesson with complete concentration and resolve. Nothing was going to deter me from carrying it all the way to the last second of class. Trouble is, I had forgotten the silly costume. I had forgotten that focus and attention to detail must be combined with passion and vision and sometimes whimsy – that attention to goals without the balancing touch of looseness and inspiration is an open door to dullness. I was carrying the spoonful of water without spilling a drop, but the kids’ interest, I’m afraid, was disappearing into daydream land. It’s a good reminder for me – to always mix some natural madness with my orderly approach to teaching. It’s what nature does, after all – a perfectly pristine morning followed by boisterous winds in the afternoon. My classes can’t be all tidiness and temperate weather. If I’m teaching sincerely and from the heart, some loose and boundless winds will sometimes blow through the class, and silly costumes will surely be seen.
© 2010 Hamilton Salsich