Thursday, July 01, 2010

Enjoying the Show

There are lucky times in my teaching life when I’m able, so to speak, to sit in the audience and enjoy the show. Usually I’m much too involved as the main character in the drama of “Mr. Salsich the English Teacher”, but now and then I’m able to get myself out of the drama and off the stage. I’m still teaching, perhaps even standing in front of the students and guiding the activity, but in my mind I’m sitting in the audience, observing with attentiveness this absorbing show. It’s a tragicomedy full of sometimes spellbinding teacher stunts, distinguished successes, and miserable failures. As I watch Mr. Salsich the teacher in action, I alternately laugh, sigh, shout approval, and sob. It’s an odd trick, to be able to perform as the teacher and at the same time observe the performance, but I find it an essential one. Far too often I get so completely caught up in the mesmerizing stage show called “9th Grade English” that I forget that it’s only a show and I’m only playing a part. It’s so easy to take myself way too seriously as a teacher – to begin believing that what I do during 3rd period on Wednesday will have life-changing effects on the children, when the truth is that my classes are no more important than the sunrise this morning or the meatloaf I made last night. My English classes are shows (sometimes spectacles, occasionally even extravaganzas) -- not too different than sunrises, making meatloaf, my lungs lifting and falling, or the stars shining their lights across the sky. My classes come each day and then they go, and they’re no more special than other things that come and go, like breezes and bubbles on water. To be honest, I find my classes to be fascinating shows, both in the preparation and in the performance, but they are only shows. They change student lives no more then their breathing does, or how their parents hug them, or what movies they see. Does this make me feel less valuable as a teacher? Not at all, and, truth is, actually more valuable -- as valuable as stars overhead or a breath of fresh air or a good hug.

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