It’s an old story, the one about the man who made himself miserable by living in a house with all the shades pulled down, and it sometimes comes to mind when I’m teaching. It occurs to me, now and again, that my only significant task as a teacher is to help the students raise the shades in their own lives. It’s not so much that I should give them new knowledge, but that I should simply help them throw open their inner doors and windows so they see what’s always been there. Sure, I can offer them crumbs and scraps of information – novel ideas, feelings they may be unfamiliar with -- but somehow I sense that all they need to know sits hidden inside them, and the teacher’s important job is to cheer them on toward slowly but surely uncovering it all. When I teach about the themes in Of Mice and Men, I don’t think of myself as setting small truths down in their minds like so many gifts; rather, I feel like I’m making it more possible for them to think thoughts that have always been inside them, but that have never risen to the surface. I’m more of an assistant discoverer than a giver of gifts. The sun of wisdom is always shining inside the teenagers I teach, and I like, most of all, to make it easy for the shades to be lifted so they see that sun.
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