An ignorance that becomes sacred when we make room for it.
That is how my friend and colleague, Bob Patrick, describes the lessons he has learned from tender, broken teenagers in his Latin classes who have taught him about life and the space we must leave open in our hearts for these lessons to unfold.
These stories exist in all the hearts and bodies of the young humans who grace us with their presence for a short time each day. If I am paying attention, then the stories Bob shares in this article are stories that I would also share.
But more often than not, my mind is consumed with checklists – the to-dos of the 21st century educator who must be everything to everyone. I fail to take the time to look into my students’ eyes and show them my vulnerable human face, which often lies behind layers and layers of armor disguised as my teacher face- that face that betrays me and ultimately has the opposite effect it strives to have. It’s the face with the agenda that students perceive, no matter how well I think I hide it. It’s the face of the daily learning I’m targeting, the flowchart of the activity I’m leading, the formative assessment I’m conducting, the district-mandated content I’m covering, and the fidelity of implementation of the current initiative.
Now, that’s not to say that all these items that make up our teaching agenda aren’t important. They are. It’s just that students perceive this agenda, often subconsciously, in our actions and on our faces. When we are consumed with and mentally focused on covering our material, regardless of what that material may be, we are not paying attention to the humans in our presence. We are missing an opportunity to be responsive to the unique qualities that make each child who they are and we may be working against the very nature of what it means to be human. We’re pushing our agenda, we’re not really trying to reach our students. And they know it.
If I am not in this field to reach the humans that I teach before I teach them, there is no point. And that means that before all else, before the teacher face, I must be giving them my human face.