Saturday, November 21, 2009

On Teaching Humanity

Still interested in them? The crucible of the classroom is the test of teaching. How to keep at it, interested, day after day? Four distinct teaching periods per day comprise some 120+- distinct individuals. Students range from the casually indifferent to the subjectively impassioned. Most expect the teacher to be the Prime-Invigorator; very few are truly independent. The teacher is expected to be Friendly, Fair, Firm; interested in them; their primary source of “liking the subject.” Thirty odd years teaching serves this summation.
Amber is always alert. Billy is a bully. Carissa chatters. Damon deliberates too much. Elsie is often elsewhere. Frank is frequently rude. Graham struggles with health. Heather is shy. Ian is intense. Jack has attention deficit disorder. Karla is very recently pregnant. Liam is, well, actually lazy. Melanie is forever muttering. Noah is nearly first in class, if only he’d…. Opal is always late. Penelope hardly ever appears. Quin is too quiet; what’s he really thinking? Rachel is too raunch…. er, far too provocative. Sam is a loner. Tom is temperamental. Ursula is exacting. Virginia wants more frequent evaluations. Wesley wants every period to go to the washroom. Xavier always arrives, looks about, and then skips out. Yvette easily prevaricates. Zoe wants to be first at everything.
How many more times? Must I repeat it? Listen up! Understand? And we persevere, day after day, class after class, semester after semester. An alphabet of students annually changes common names, a cornucopia of souls co-mingle in class-time, ready or not to evolve. And the real subject to be delivered, for me at least, is not the curriculum; it is the advancement of the human condition. Not to be, or to be… a better Common Citizen!
Mediocrity is not necessarily a dirty word. It is, after all, a delineation of what on average is the average energy of the average attempt to fulfill the average challenge. We do what we do at every task on an average basis that which it is of what it is that we do. Huh? And to raise the bar, to strive for excellence above and beyond that of the average of others, is to elevate one of us into First Place, and thereby to set the standard of excellence for the other, in second. So it is in every endeavour, sport, achievement, talent, competition. The bell curve shifts. It shifts perhaps as lugubriously as the Little Prince’s python all chock full of the proverbial elephant, and it takes a seeming endless time to digest the lump of that bell toward more equanimity of the curriculum’s continuum, but the bar slowly but surely, we trust, gets raised. Still, that ubiquitous bell curve, like feeding the hunger in the process of the constrictor, re-emerges in the learning body of the class. The best quickly get better. The slow too soon get slower. The new median re-establishes a new level of… mediocrity. This is what we do, how we usually do it, and how we are going to keep doing it, climbing over raised bar after bar, reaching higher measure for measure.
Pigeonholing is problematic for everybody; well… for those who don’t like labels. It creates a sense of being limited to a ‘group’ that limits the… individual. And that individual’s Potential, as the end-product of a lifetime, is at the root of our contribution to the self, to the other, to the group, to humanity. It matters not that our Common Names be ranked in respect of each other; it matters more that a person make fullest use of One’s individual potential to participate that representation of ourselves for All. And as each student continues past graduation, it matters that life continue to be interesting! Or is that: that life has been named interesting by an Interested Teacher!

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