Feeling frustrated lately by a sense of disorder and obscurity in some of my lessons and classes, I’ve been remembering something I was told on a bus to New York City many years ago. I sat next to an elderly fellow who was traveling to see his six grandchildren in the city, and, when I complained about some turmoil in my life, he smiled gently and said, “Just see what is. Just see what is and go from there.” He turned back to his magazine and we spoke no more, but his words have stayed with me. In a weird way, those three small words – see what is – seem to state an essential truth about life, and about teaching. It sounds overly simple to say it, but what I need to do in my classroom is just see what’s right in front of my eyes, moment by moment. I don’t need to see goals and objectives and long-range plans and detailed curricula as much as I need to see the distinct and singular students sitting in front of me at any particular moment. Instead of almost exclusively focusing on following the steps of my lesson plan, I need to open my eyes to the miracles called Maddy and Joseph and Asia. It seems increasingly clear to me that I have spent a ludicrous amount of classroom time seeing what isn’t instead of what is. Tomorrow’s class isn’t, and neither is next week’s nor yesterday’s. Even the next step in the lesson isn’t. Only this moment – this strange, unsullied, spanking-new moment with Ryan in his red shirt right in front of me and Carrie beside the windows and Cassy saying what she thinks the story means – only this moment really is. Reducing frustration might be as simple as rediscovering my eyesight, my mislaid capacity for seeing what is, whether it’s Jeb searching for words to express his thoughts, or Amy all by herself by the bookshelves, or Billy bending under his pack of troubles as he sits beside me, or a granddad in a gray sweatshirt going to the city on the train.
© 2010 Hamilton Salsich