Friday, June 28, 2013


"Sailing off Alki Point"
oil, by Robin Weiss

As my many years in the classroom passed, I gradually made increasing use of the long-standing slogan “Easy Does It”. It was an advantageous change for me, because for the first half of my teaching career I could have honestly worn a button proclaiming “Hard Does It”.  In those early years, I approached teaching more like a warrior than an educator. Every aspect of teaching seemed to involve an obstacle to be overcome, a resistance to be neutralized, an enemy to be beaten. It was hard work – “hard” meaning tense, frenzied, and sometimes downright distressing. Thankfully, though, around my 15th year in the profession, I began to approach my work more like a sailor at sea than a soldier. When I was teaching, I often thought of my father, the finest sailor I knew and the man who taught me that “easy does it” on the high seas. Sailing was easy, he said, because you simply let the wind do the work. He taught me not to fight the wind – not to try to control it or manipulate it or resist it – but simply to work with it. Fighting the wind was hard work; cooperating with it, combining forces with it, was, according to Dad, as easy as breathing. In the last decades of my 45-year teaching career, I often thought of him as I steered my lessons through 48-minute class periods. Like the whimsical winds of the ocean, problems and distractions arose and spun around me, but – remembering Captain Pete – I tried to relax and lighten up instead of stiffen and fight. As student questions were asked and comments were made, I turned the lesson a little this way or that to take advantage of the energies and interests in the classroom. This doesn’t mean teaching became easy for me – just that I took it easy as I was teaching. There were times when I had to be firm with a student or a class, just as a sailor must pull hard on the sails in a storm – but I tried to be firm in a gentle manner, strong in a considerate way. Dad always said a good sailor is both forceful and easy-going, both unyielding and laid-back – an approach that seemed to work as well in Room 2 as on Long Island Sound.  

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