Friday, 10 February 2012

The Sheep and the Goats

Brad Peterson asked his teacher friends (both real and virtual) for the quote that best summed up for them what teaching was all about. At the time I happened to be rereading "The Fall" by Albert Camus. It contains the following statement:
"A single sentence will suffice for modern man: he fornicated and read the papers."
In my own work as a teacher (in the little that remains) that quote gets to the heart of the matter. The point is to cultivate the conviction (wherever possible) that the men and women of the future might be capable of more than that.

Have I succeeded?

It is important to keep sight of the few successes in the midst of all the failures.

Recently I went to do my regular Thursday afternoon lesson with a boy of 14. I started off by referring to a detail that I thought was utterly insignificant. While I had been waiting for him to open the door, I noticed for the first time that one of the iron railings outside his house was unlike the others. All the others were of flat, undecorated metal. That one had a faint floral pattern on one side, almost hidden by the thick paint, but still just visible to the attentive eye. I drew his attention to it and asked him why he had this one odd railing. "Why, why?" I insisted. He looked at me for a moment, pointed to all the other railings in the neighbouring houses that looked so superficially similar, and said: "I don't want to be a sheep."

I nearly wept.

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