Early this morning, as I took my daily exercise on the hilly streets near my house, I heard countless sounds of sunrise, and none of them needed my help. The universe of my neighborhood was stirring and rising into life without Mr. Salsich’s assistance. The English teacher who sometimes sees himself as the center of his classroom cosmos was completely superfluous this morning. The new day was effortlessly establishing itself without my support or advice. It was an instructive half-hour for me. As I climbed the hills, I heard the whistles of birds and the hum of early cars, the buzz of morning insects and the rustle of spring blossoms, and it came to me, as though a lamp had softly switched on in my mind, that countless things happen, moment by moment, without my help or approval. Even my eyes were working with no help from the officious English teacher – my eyes that make miracles every single second, welcoming the world into my life whether I want them to or not. Also, my ears were receiving the morning sounds with wholeheartedness and ease, not because I made it possible for them to do it, but because that’s what they naturally do. The point was as clear as the daybreak song of a robin: the universe doesn’t need my consent for anything. As I continued climbing and thinking, I realized that this applied even to my teaching -- that my students can learn beautifully without any special approval or help from me. Certainly, as a teacher, I lend my daily support and assistance, but like the bird songs encircling the streets this morning, learning of some sort will carry on no matter what flashy plans I make for class. Kids learn because their hearts and minds are miraculous learning machines, not because some wizened English teacher dreams up bizarre lessons. It’s amazing to me how often I fall into the fantasy of thinking that I am an utterly essential part of my students’ schooling. I was surely not a necessary part of the sounds at sunrise this morning, nor am I indispensable in my students’ attempts to make some sweet academic music in their school careers.
© 2010 Hamilton Salsich