In my work as a teacher, I sometimes see myself as a keeper of thousands of keys that can unlock learning of all kinds for my students. I see the keys hanging in bunches from my belt as I make my way among the kids, calling out the names of different doors they can open with the assistance of my keys. The classroom, in this vision, is a place of countless doors to lands of good learning, and I hold the keys to all of them. When I’m seeing teaching like this, a 48-minute class period is composed of continuous unfastening and swinging open and seeing truths the students have never seen before. Of course, my work is not always as fairy-tale-like as this, but there’s some truth in the keeper-of-keys scenario. School is, or should be, a land of never-ending doors, all of which can be swung open with a simple turn of a key, and a good teacher takes a truckload of them into every class. There’s no magic in it, really. The keys are made of the modest confidence that we, as teachers, can take students to truths they’ve never seen, to places of the mind and heart where wisdom is waiting. If we are both self-effacing and solicitous in our work with students, we will surely see new doors day after day, and will happily do the work of unlocking and letting them open for all of us.
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