Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Hard to Believe

The other day, when a former student from long ago said to me, “I can’t believe you’re still teaching,” it brought to mind the countless number of things I simply can’t believe. One of them, incidentally, is the same fact that so stunned my former student – that I am still teaching, after 45 years. I’ve been pinching myself for the last few days (school starts next week), wondering if it’s actually true. Am I actually going to have the privilege of teaching yet another group of shrewd, spirited, and ingenious teenagers? Are parents and administrators actually willing to hand over dozens of children to my guidance and care? How did I get so lucky? And all through the school year, I will have frequent feelings of disbelief: “I can’t believe a 13-year-old can understand a Shakespeare sonnet so deeply.” “I can’t believe how respectful he was to her in the discussion.” “I came late for class, and I can’t believe how quiet the students were when I entered.” I guess my work as a teacher takes place in a miraculous realm, since three out of five happenings seem absolutely amazing to me. “How can he possibly understand Whitman so well at the age of thirteen?” “It’s mind-boggling to me that they don’t like this story.” Even my malfunctions and crashes as a teacher seem incredible, like mistakes only a novice would make, not an old guy who’s an old hand. But maybe that’s the greatest wonder of all: “I can’t believe I feel like an anxious apprentice after four-and-a-half decades in the classroom!”

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