Sunday, August 01, 2010

Never Truly Alone

It’s become more and more clear to me, as the years have passed, that no one is ever alone in my classes, including me. That goes against accepted logic, I know, since so many students do seem like lonesome travelers as they make their way through the school days. I've had countless students who seemed entirely friendless and solitary, speaking to almost no one and seldom sharing in the pursuits of English class. They passed like phantoms from classroom to classroom, and then, poof, they were gone and no one noticed. As a teacher, I, too, have sometimes lived a lonesome phantom life. During times of personal troubles, as I stood in front of my students I sometimes felt like I was in a forsaken wilderness instead of a classroom. For the duration of those forlorn times – which weren’t many, thankfully -- I was as lonesome as a kid with no companions. However, as my four decades in the classroom have passed, I have slowly come to realize that genuine isolation – the actual separation of one person from another – is, in reality, impossible. During class, my students and I are as together, as one, as drops of water in a river. Yes, in some ways we are separated as distinct individuals, but looking at it another way, it’s obvious that we share everything, and thus are part of a single, integrated reality. We share the air in the classroom, the daylight, the scenes out the window, our glances, our gestures, our thoughts, our words. All of these phenomena pass among us and through us throughout a 48-minute period, making us, you might say, as intermixed and united as breezes in a wind. Even a silent, shy student – even an occasionally sorrowful teacher – can’t really be totally alone. The breeze ruffling my shirt just now is part of something much bigger, and so are my students and I.

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