Thursday, November 23, 2006

knowing impulses compatible

This was going to be a simple short story but it turned into a manifesto of sorts. If you're not in that mood then skip this one. -B

Johnny Know-it-all was too good for work, so he said, and the truth is that there isn't much room for such people.

Johnny became an English teacher. Teaching something he'd known how to do since he was a baby.

Johnny thought teaching was the same as knowing.

Sometimes Johnny would walk into a class with only a slightly better idea of what was going to happen in the classroom than the students.

Samuel Epimetheus was too good for work, so he said, and the truth is that there isn't much room for such people.

Samuel became an English teacher. Teaching something he'd known how to do since he was a baby. He was a lot like Johnny in the beginning with one small difference:

Samuel worried that knowing wasn't the same as teaching.

So, in his anxiety over how best to teach something he knew automatically how to do, he would spend all his free time rehearsing the whole class front to back and back to front. Every student in his classes knew that he knew exactly what he was doing during every second of the class.

Perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not, both Johnny and Samuel produced students with an excellent command of English. Furthermore, as Johnny and Samuel progressed in their careers they began to resemble each other more and more. Johnny became more methodical and Samuel became more spontaneous and to see them in most classes today it would be difficult if not impossible to tell them apart.

Sure Johnny sometimes abandons his plans and Samuel is sometimes distressed if the class goes in an unplanned direction but both have been teaching for over a decade now so they must have been doing something right from the very beginning.

Johnny and Samuel both got lucky, each in his own way. Johnny and Samuel benefitted from great students. Great students made Johnny and Samuel outstanding teachers in the end.

Every English teacher who's ever felt the pull of little Johnny know-it-all and little Samuel Epimetheus in their guts knows this.

Great students make teaching days, evenings and weekends worthwhile.

But in the end, Johnny and Samuel realized something else, in an odd way, they were right.

Great teaching is not work. Great teaching is a mission. Great teaching is a vocation.

Great teaching is painting the Forth bridge. Great teaching is Sisyphean.

Great teaching is never being able to finish teaching nor being able to desist from teaching.

Great teaching is great because it is hard, if it were easy everyone would do it.

Great teaching is:___________________ (complete the sentence with a suitable adjective)

Dedicated to my great teachers. I was fortunate to have so many that the list would be longer than the text. Thanks for the inspirations. B.

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