Wednesday, April 06, 2011


"Canoe and Fisherman", oil, by David Larson Evans

     An old truism says that nothing is perfect, but strangely enough, I’ve come to think that, in a way, things are always perfect in my classroom. Of course, by the many artificial standards we use to pass judgment on ourselves and others, there are dozens of degrees of imperfection in everything that occurs in my room, but whenever I manage to stand back in a more non-judgmental position, I see evidence of flawless events unfolding just as they should. From this more accepting point of view, each moment of a class carries out its duties precisely as it’s supposed to. Each small or significant occurrence creates something special, something that sets that moment aside as distinctive, even though the distinction, the full worthiness and merit of the moment, may not be entirely clear to me. I’ve long since realized that my ability to judge the true value of anything is about as nonexistent as hair on my head. I regularly pretend that I know which lesson soared and which one was a washout, which students set records for themselves and which ones slumped along, but the truth is it’s all just stylish guesswork. In point of fact, I can judge the success of my classes no better than I can judge whether winds are what they should be when they pass the classroom windows. What I’ve come to see is that, rather than constantly passing judgment on what happens in English class, I should try to step back and accept the suitability of all of it and try to see how each moment, no matter what it’s made of, makes a new opportunity for learning.  This doesn’t mean I need to like everything that happens, or that I shouldn’t rapidly redirect any misbehavior; on the contrary, accepting what’s happening now makes it much easier to make something different happen a moment from now. It’s a little like steering my kayak in quick waters: by not fighting nature’s perfectly-planned course of the river, I find smooth ways to get where I want to go, and by saying yes to the rightness of whatever’s happening in English class, I can usually notice and follow the most effortless ways to teach what needs to be taught.   

No comments: