Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Holding and Stretching

Years ago, I somehow picked up the mistaken notion that the word “attention” derives from the Latin word meaning “to hold”, but I’m glad I made that mistake, for it reminds me that when I genuinely pay attention to my students, I am, in a sense, holding them in a gentle and appreciative way. To me, paying attention doesn’t just mean watching and listening; it means attending to the students with wholeheartedness. When I attend to my students, I hold them in my awareness, look after their talents and needs, truly care for them. Oddly, as I found out a few years ago, the word “attend” actually stems from the Latin word “tendere”, meaning to stretch – which also helps me understand what paying attention to students really involves. If I’m genuinely attentive to my students, it means I’m stretching myself out to them, reaching beyond the borders of my personal interests and concerns. This kind of attentiveness is hard work, for it requires forcing myself to extend my awareness, widen the perimeters of my sympathy, and truly enlarge my life. It’s not easy, even after all these years. Perhaps all this holding and stretching is why I’m dog-tired at dinner time, day after day.

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