Krista Tippett’s show On Being offers us perspectives on spirituality as it manifests in different places, professions and people. Parker Palmer writes regular blog posts for her and, more often then not, they are incredible.
This recent post struck me square between the eyes. I’m certain that if you follow my blog, it’s also going to speak to you. Palmer reminds us that, “what the world calls a visual aberration, an affliction, or just plain wacko, might be a different way of seeing — a way that reveals realities not normally seen.”
He shares a poem from Lisel Mueller called Monet Refuses the Operation. Monet introduced the world to Impressionism at a time when there were strict guidelines used to determine the quality of painting and sculpture. His impressionistic paintings did not meet the quality rules of the time. In Mueller’s poem, Monet asserts to a would-be eye surgeon that, indeed, his vision is as it should be:
Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
It continues. And Palmer concludes by reminding those of us who would see the world with different eyes to not let our “cynics do eye surgery” on us.
Monet brought into existence a new way of seeing the world that was not welcomed at the time. We are all better for it.
When we language teachers simplify our teaching and focus on authentic communication with our students, about our students, we see sharp increases in attention, engagement, and ultimately the desire to speak the target language. It’s a challenge to put away the “teacher face” of standards, can-dos, essential questions, etc. But if we can, we should show students our “human face” – our face of genuine interest in and attention to those who are in front of us in that moment.
Because their days are filled with seat time and learning that tends to lack meaningfulness and relevance, and because they are human, our students recognize and appreciate this authenticity more than we can truly measure. It’s not what you’ll hear about at your next PD session, but it has the power to change how our students see the world.