Wednesday, February 22, 2012


"Cloudy Day at Sharkey's at the Beach", oil, by Maryanne Jacobsen
Someone once said to me, as we were standing on the shore on a blustery day, that “the ocean is never a mess”, and I sometimes recall his statement on those occasional days when I’m struggling through a class that seems an unreserved disaster. We were staring out at an ocean that seemed, from one perspective, to be in a state of total untidiness and disorder, with whitecaps crashing crazily into each other and winds working in every possible direction. It was not an especially pretty scene. It appeared to be simply a sea let loose and gone crazy. Few people would have praised its orderliness and efficiency, and yet my friend saw something else, and I try to see something else at school when my lesson plans appear to be pulling apart and crumpling. He helped me understand that whatever the sea seems to be doing is precisely what it should be doing, and I try to see the same truth in my collapsing lessons. There’s loveliness, he said, in even the wildest swells and breakers, and there’s loveliness, I know, in even the most disastrous days at school. My particular plans may not be breaking records for success, but beneath them, there’s always learning of some sort proceeding at a steady and perfect pace. The students may not be understanding what I want them to understand, but they’re surely understanding, in their youthful hearts and minds, some truths that will take them toward new and necessary knowledge. Surely there is the inescapable order of all things right where I’m seeing only academic disorder and disaster. I often feel thankful to my old friend for helping me see the splendor in even the stormiest days at the shore, for he also showed me, in an unforeseen way, that the failures of lesson plans can prepare the way for surprisingly prosperous learning.

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