“If he did not do much active good, he never did any harm.”
-- Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers
It seems to me, more and more, that doing no harm should be the highest aspiration of a teacher. I sometimes see myself, when I’m teaching, as someone sitting beside a smoothly-moving, constantly shifting stream – and the last thing I want to do is step in and try to alter its course. The rivers of my students’ lives are flowing with a wonderful steadiness and inventiveness, and who am I to suppose I can enhance them? Can I make mountains be more majestic? Can I shift the winds from the east to the west? I sometimes wonder at the presumption of we teachers, supposing we can transform children’s lives, when it is no more possible than transforming the way caterpillars become butterflies. It would be a better approach to praise, at least to ourselves, the utter rightness of the students’ lives, the absolute appropriateness of each of them as they sit before me in class. Then, having embraced their intrinsic excellence, perhaps I can help them discover it for themselves.