Friday, July 30, 2010


the wings-become-windows butterfly.Image by e³°°° via Flickr
This afternoon, just after I had spent a few minutes carefully observing a butterfly with my binoculars, the thought came to me that I rarely observe my students with such attentiveness. It seemed strange, the more I thought about it, that I had just devoted more than a minute to watching a butterfly, whereas I only infrequently pause for half that time to observe a student during English class. The beautiful butterfly captured my complete attention, but my individual students, it seems, seldom do. I wasn’t too busy today to pause and study an insect, yet I’m apparently so absorbed in the minutiae of my lessons that I rarely find a few seconds to watch and wonder about these out-of-the- ordinary creatures who are my students. Sure, I see them all before me as we work through an English lesson, and I’m as dutiful and alert as most teachers, but I don’t often stop to attentively observe individual kids. In that sense, I guess I’m not a very scientific teacher. A proper scientist observes - scrutinizes -- with steadiness and precision, always taking detailed notes, because she knows that’s the only way to learn about and come to understand the life – the reality – of the subjects of her study. Why, I wonder, don’t I do that? Why don’t I think of my classroom as a sort of laboratory? Why don’t I occasionally grow as silent and observant as a scientist, maybe for ten minutes at a stretch, carefully taking notes on what I'm watching? Are not teenagers, in their madness and intensity and brilliance, as interesting as butterflies?

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