Sunday, September 26, 2010

Seeking Calmness

“I will seek calmness in my ordinary duties.”
-- Rev. Rufus Lyon, in George Eliot’s Felix Holt, The Radical

Calmness is not usually associated with teaching teenagers, but lately – like Rev. Rufus Lyon – I’ve been finding some serenity as I go about my everyday duties. I guess there’s goodness in even the slightest tasks of a teacher – distributing papers, bestowing smiles like small presents, listing and describing assignments – and this past week I was blessed and soothed by this usually concealed richness. Nothing special happened – no long leaps forward in learning, no group hurrahs by students as they suddenly grasped something, no particularly top-notch teaching – but still there was comfort in carrying out the tiny tasks that all teachers must take upon themselves. Just saying to the students, “Let’s take a look at Chapter 4” felt like something special, like lots of things would change because I said it. It may seem silly, but on Wednesday, in a 9th grade class, I walked from one side of the room to the other to throw something in the wastebasket, and the throwing brought the thought that the class would be a calming and winning one, and it was. It’s a curious truth – and Rev. Lyon knew this – that the most pedestrian duties can sometimes be the most restful and inspiring ones.

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