Monday, May 30, 2011

"Strange, that some of us, with quick alternate vision, see beyond our infatuations, and even while we rave on the heights, behold the wide plain where our persistent self pauses and awaits us"
- George Eliot, Middlemarch

There’s great wisdom in this quote, especially for a teacher like me, who sometimes falls in love with his classroom tricks and stratagems and imagines that he’s reached “the heights” of his profession. It’s so easy to do that – to fantasize about how essential my work is and how successful I’m becoming in the pursuit of excellence in the classroom. I can easily drift off in my mind and “rave on the heights” about the significance of my job as a teacher of teenagers -- about how indispensable my profession is compared to some others. What I appreciate about Eliot’s words here is the swift awakening they bring, reminding me, like a neighborly slap on the face, of my relative ordinariness in this immeasurable universe. I don’t mean “ordinariness” in a negative way, just to suggest that my work in the classroom carries no more weight than any other work the universe does, be it the sweeping of a maintenance woman or the cerebral exertions of an astrophysicist. Eliot’s words bring me that “quick alternate vision” that enables me to see the somewhat pretentious actor on the “heights” but also the “persistent self” – the real me – that simply “awaits” for the acting to stop and the understanding to start once again. I know in my heart that so much of my life is an amusing show I put on, while the real me, as limitless as a “wide plain”, is somewhere in the background patiently observing. I just have to remember to balance the show – for instance, my “infatuations” with my teaching – with an equal amount of curious and good-natured observing.

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