Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thoughts on Returning to Class

As I prepare to return to the classroom, weeks after school has started, I always feel some trepidation. I know I am not the ideal teacher. I am not Mr. Chips or LouAnne Johnson—heck I am not even as grumpily and grudgingly good as Mr. Holland. I am just me. I come to work and try my best. I try to inspire my students to do their best. And I always end a semester feeling that I have not fulfilled my potential and often have not helped my students to fulfill their potentials, either. Granted, by the end of the semester I am exhausted and more likely to look at everything negatively. I must do better than I think as my students are often likely to stop me in the halls or the stores to say hi. The smiles and cheerful attitudes reassure me that I haven’t scarred them for life.

Today I was reading a post in blogessor and found that this appealed to me and gave me some insight and hope for the year:

Today, though, I came across an article called "The One Who Is Not Busy." In it, Zen Buddhist Norman Fischer talks about being "prisoners of the list" as we realize (again) that there aren't enough hours in the day to do all that we need or want to do. He says,

"But the point is not how many things we have done or will do in a given amount of time; the point is how we do what we do."

As I read that this morning, I substituted "taught/teach" for "done/do," as in:

"But the point is not how many things we have taught or will teach in a given amount of time; the point is how we teach what we teach."

"Learned/learn" works here. "Wrote/write" and "read/read" do, too.

As I move back into Eddy Hall this year, I know I'll be clobbered again by the temptation to become the prisoner of my lists. I know I'll want to be counting tomatoes rather than how many more projects are left in my stack of grading. I'm writing this entry to remind myself that I can't teach it all, no matter how ambitious my syllabi. In fact, maybe being less ambitious would let all of us learn more in the end.

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