As much my students’ as mine

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.

 

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5 responses

  1. Thank you, Dr. Franklin! What a beautiful connection you have made between this fairy tale and your own experience with teaching. It is wonderful the way that reading books can reveal truths in our own lives. I have many times had a similar experience to that, and so this post resonates well with me. I appreciate your positive outlook on the way that we ‘pull out’ on one another, and I think it is a very interesting thing to think about and look for as a student now, and as a future teacher.

    • Dear Ashley,
      Thank you for your encouraging note. I’m glad to know that this post resonated with you and that as a beginning teacher you are already interested in paying attention to the dynamic relationship between teachers, students and curriculum.

      Yes, truth is often best wrapped and understood in story. Keep reading good stories!

  2. Thank you for your post Dr. Franklin.

    The image of the interaction between Diamond and his baby brother is a beautiful one, and its application to education is extremely helpful and encouraging. In the past when I have found myself in a teaching position, whether it be a sermon, or a bible study, or in front of a classroom, or even individually with a student, I often worry so much about the preparation and execution that I can fail to allow for proper flexibility, adaptation, and student application. Obviously preparation and execution are backbones to a successful lesson, but if that is where I stop as a teacher I may rob my students of the opportunity to chew on the material, reflect, and respond.

    The interaction that you have pointed out between teacher, student, and curriculum is one that I will keep in mind as I continue on in my journey to becoming a teacher.

    • Dear Daniel, may God bless you intention and help it flourish in your life as a teacher. You will know you are on the right track when you forget you are teaching and you forget yourself and are fully engaged in the present moment with your students – a sense of coming together around what it is you are wanting to know. The preparation is important – it is a way of coming to know what you are teaching so that the knowledge becomes a natural part of you, so that when you offer yourself as a teacher to your students, you are offering what is real and true with wonder and humility.

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