“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.”
-- Dickens, A Tale Of Two Cities
It’s amusing, really, how I sometimes enjoy pretending that I know my students well. It’s as if I’m up on stage playing a role in a play called “The Dedicated Teacher”, and at the same time I’m also in the audience, laughing quietly at the humor of it all. The dedicated teacher walks around the stage with furrowed brow as he struggles to “get to know” his students, while I sit in wonderment in the audience, smiling because nothing is clearer to me than the fact that finding any truth about the inner lives of my students is a hopeless enterprise. While the actor/teacher named Mr. Salsich continually carries forward his mission to make himself into a teacher who “understands” his students, the Mr. Salsich in the front row can’t help but find the funny side of the performance, mainly because of the “wonderful fact” that Dickens understood. I can pretend – and I do it day after day – that I understand people, but that’s as foolish, and funny, as pretending to understand why the universe does what it does, or why Niagara Falls falls the way it does at a given moment. It may sound preposterous to some, but I truly believe that the students in my classroom are as vast and mysterious as a thousand solar systems -- so where’s the honesty in saying I understand them? Do I understand how rivers run? Do I understand where the wind arrives from? Only an actor could carry off such a charade.