I had the joy of reading one of George MacDonald’s fairy tales over the Christmas holiday, At the back of the north wind. The main character of the tale, Diamond, is an extraordinarily pure of heart child whose loving simplicity brings healing, light and love to everyone he encounters. He has a baby brother who he loves to bounce on his knee and while doing so he makes up silly songs to entertain him. One of his friends, an author, asks him to sing one of the songs he created. But Diamond says it is not possible.
“No sir. I couldn’t. I forget them as soon as I’ve done with them. Besides I couldn’t make a line without baby on my knee. We make them together, you know. They’re as much the baby’s as mine. It’s he that pulls them out of me.”
This little interaction made me think about the relationship between teachers, students and curriculum planning, and I have to say that this is one of the best descriptions of curriculum planning I’ve come across in a long time. I have never been a teacher who has been able to teach the same thing twice in the same way. Even when I have planned the same class for two different sections back to back, the conversation is different, the interaction is different, the learning is different. My students pull out of me and I’m sure I pull out of them in ways that can’t be duplicated. And then there are the many ways students pull out of each other.
I love this dynamic of the classroom, it’s why I love being a teacher. It’s also why teaching is so complex and challenging, yet filled with sacred, joyful and delightful moments.
I can’t say that what is pulled out of me and us is always beautifully in tune, my heart isn’t as pure as Diamond’s and sometimes I am distracted or weighed down. Sometimes, I am trying too hard to sing another person’s song, or not really paying close enough attention to my students to see what would delight them and invite them into learning.
But there is always the next class, always a new song to sing, as long as I stay convinced that the words and music are as much my students’ as mine.