It’s interesting to me that the word “only” derives from the same root that gives us “one”, a fact which I often relate to my work as a middle school English teacher. When I remind myself, as I often do, that I only have to teach kids how to improve their reading and writing, not how to live lives of decency and resolve, what I mean is that there’s a oneness, a singleness of purpose, in my work that makes maintaining focus fairly easy. I don’t have a thousand jobs to do, only one – to teach students to read with vigilance and write with self-assurance. When I drive to school each morning, a single overshadowing thought should be on my mind: today, I only have to give the students a suggestion or two to help them be better readers and writers. From "one" we also get the word “lonely”, implying, perhaps, that being “lonely” does not always have to be a discouraging experience, especially if it simply means being alone in my complete focus on the single task at hand. I am alone – “all one” – when I give my utter attention to a few essential teaching tasks. I am lonely, or “l-one-ly”, in the good sense of focusing singly, one by one, on teaching some simple skills and concepts for a few hours each day. After all, I’m only a teacher of middle school English. The stars spin above us constantly, winds come across our towns from unimaginable distances, and in such an awe-inspiring universe, I’m fortunate that I only have to show kids how to read and write better than they did before.
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