I am building a file cabinet for my office. It strikes me an apt metaphor for what we do as teachers in the classroom. I begin with a vision, followed by making a clearly developed plan. I gather the materials I will need – examining them for grain, quality, and fit. Each piece is cut just over the requisite length. I use a variety of joinery techniques to assemble the parts. The finished piece begins to take form. From the rough construction, wood is slowly and strategically removed, rounding edges and corners, sanding rough edges and surfaces, slowly revealing the finished shape. I stand back to see what continues to require attention. Final details are attended. Stain is gently rubbed in; varnish is brushed on – rubbed smooth between coats. I stand back and smile, satisfied with a pleasing, useful piece of furniture.
The art of teaching follows a similar path. I begin with a vision for my students and seek to create a learning environment where it might flourish. From that guiding vision, I set out to develop clearly articulated plans. I need to know where I am going and what the finished product will look like. I gather together all the learning materials: microscopes, balances, calculators, books, and a sundry pile of interesting stuff. I plan how students will be grouped and interact to best meet our learning objectives. From there we collaboratively begin to build knowledge and understanding. Our initial construction is rough and contains unnecessary components. We slowly and methodically refine and clarify to smooth out the distractions. In the end, we apply the polish and make the final revisions. Standing back and reflecting on our growth, we smile with satisfaction of a job well done, label the file and add it to our cabinet ready to pull out for future use.
I am a builder, I am a teacher. I love the act of creating, be it with the tangible quality of wood, or the less tangible gift of knowledge. In the end, I can stand back, reflect on the work, and smile with satisfaction.