Thursday, August 19, 2010

Coasting Now and Then

Long ago, when I fell into a period of nonchalance and indolence in my teaching, an assistant principal accused me of “coasting” (he was right, and I felt ashamed), but now, years later, I see that there is actually a constructive form of coasting. Back then, my coasting consisted of simply not giving enough quality time to my work, but now I find that occasional coasting actually brings benefits to both my students and me. Because I’ve come to accept the fact that no one can work at a high pressure, high speed pace all the time, I’ve learned to occasionally refresh myself and the students with some restful coasting. If an assistant principal stopped in at such a time and asked what’s happening, I might say, “Something very important. We’re all coasting for two minutes.” When I coast on my bike after climbing a long, steep hill, I’m reviving and restoring myself, gathering fresh energy for the next climb, and a similar thing happens in English class. If I can’t climb hills for 48 consecutive minutes, why should I expect my teenage students to stay engrossed in my English lesson for a full class period? After a wearing climb, bike riders roll downhill for awhile, taking healthy breaths and bringing some buoyancy back to their bodies, and now and then my students and I do something not too different for two minutes – slouching in our chairs, even resting our heads on the table, even standing outside in the inspiring sunshine. That’s coasting, and it makes the draining journey through an English class period a little less of a grind, and maybe even – who knows? – a little more fun.

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