Monday, May 31, 2010

Just Simply

When I think about teaching, “just simply” is a phrase that often comes to mind. One of my major goals is to show the students that there’s a fair degree of simplicity inherent in all they’re required to do and learn in my class. Life, and being a 9th grade English student, must sometimes seem overwhelmingly complicated to the kids, and I hope to uncover the ease and straightforwardness that usually lies just below the puzzling surface of things. Writing a formal essay can seem like an impossibly intricate task, and some students get lost in their obsessive planning and fretting, so occasionally I have to remind them to just simply sit down and do their best. I also have to remind myself, since I can easily go straying off into compulsive worrying about how complicated my responsibilities are. When teaching English starts to seem like rocket science, I have to take myself back to the plain truth: I’m just simply supposed to help 14-year-olds read and write a little better than they could last year. I don’t have to remake the students’ minds or shape them into superstars – just simply encourage them to continue caring about the sentences they read and those they write. I don’t mean to suggest that teaching teenagers isn’t hard work, or that’s it’s free of disappointments and disasters – just that it’s probably a much simpler task than I usually realize. This isn’t a perfect analogy, but I think of the old story about the man who, when he found himself in a room with the window shades pulled down, started to fret about how complicated it was going to be to bring light into the room, when someone from outside shouted, “Just simply raise the shades!” In my teaching, I need to just simply do my best each moment, and let the learning unfurl and spread as it inescapably will.

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