Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I often fret about the quality of my teaching, but it’s interesting that I never worry about the quality of the sky. The sky, as the saying goes, is what it is – stationary in solid blue at seven, cloud-dappled at eleven, stormy with encircling winds at six, star-spangled at midnight. Not even a fool would insist that the sky is “better” at one time than another; it’s different, yes, and perhaps unpleasant to us sometimes, but it’s always just the same high-quality sky. Its natural “skyness” is always perfect. Why, then, does my teaching so often seem so imperfect, flawed, deficient, and simply unsatisfactory? Why can’t I appreciate a day’s work in the classroom the way I appreciate the sky – as an ever-changing and vastly interesting phenomenon? Some skies are overcast, and some English lessons move slowly and hesitantly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are fruitless. An artist might see something special in a dismal sky, and I need to see the distinctive qualities of every class I teach, not just the so-called successful ones. After all, some of my students may see wisdom and a blessing in a lesson that seemed a shameful disappointment to me. They might see sweetness and light where I saw only the cloudiness of unsatisfactory teaching.

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