Thursday, November 18, 2010

Grace and Glory

I’m not a church-going person, but I do recall hearing, in a passing conversation with a Christian friend, something about “grace and glory”, and, surprisingly, those words occasionally come back to me when I’m doing the daily work of a middle school English teacher. I think of grace, not in a religious way, but in an everyday, commonplace way, as the quiet gifts I regularly receive of good thoughts and helpful feelings. When I’m working with the students, continuous useful ideas somehow seem to flow toward me, and feelings that make good teaching possible are given to me in astounding abundance. I have no idea where all this comes from, all this munificence of spirit that I make use of each day, but I feel it fully, moment by moment. This, for me, is what grace is – the nonstop giving of a universe that seems so full of goodness the giving might never stop – and it is this grace that causes me to feel the simple and straightforward glory of teaching. I’m not talking about big-time glory, like superstars seem to bask in, but rather the calm glory of seeing a student send out a stream of smiles because she finally understands a Dickinson poem, or watching a boy break through his hang-ups about writing and just set down his thoughts with liberty and delight. The glories of English class are as small as a student holding a chair for another student, or the shy thank-you’s I sometimes receive at the end of class, or the creation of carefully shared ideas during discussions. It’s a simple thing, I think, to feel the glory given to any person blessed enough to be a teacher. They’re all around me in my classroom -- constant, rousing gifts from anywhere and everywhere.

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