Strengths and Weaknesses

Today I… Got up very, very late, stopped by the church, worked on school stuff for a while, had a long talk with my parents, ate a (for me) elaborate meal, and then read a novel. An Acceptable Time, by Madeleine L’engle. I was a good book. As far as I can tell, all of hers are. Much better than the dragon novels of a couple of days ago, but that doesn’t take much, to be sure. There were some ideas in it that I wish to think about – though I don’t know well enough what I think of them to write anything here.

This does not excuse my tendency to avoid work at the most inopportune possible times, but I think that, as most people do, I have strengths as well as weaknesses that I bring to teaching – only I don’t know how to use my particular strengths within the structure of schooling. My father thinks that they’re more the strengths of a good college professor than of a high school teacher, and I believe he may be right. I have thoughtfulness, intelligence, (analysis and critical thought, as some people would say) a wide range of interests, some perseverance, and both the ability and desire to write good prose. I’m not saying that many people do not have these abilities – only that they are things I’m somewhat good. On the other hand, I’m erratic, linear, can only focus on one or two things at any given time. I’m not very obedient. Actually, I am fairly obedient, and would like to become more so – to people and institutions I trust. I do not trust institutionalized schooling, and am therefore not very obedient to it. Actively dislike the modern focus on studies (imagine a sneer there), and ignore them whenever I can. By that I do not mean legitimate studies in science or medicine, but rather the sorry affairs that teachers are required to participate in all the time, more or less against our wills.

And with that, I know that I’m starting to turn rebellious again. I can prevent that only so far as I think entirely about my subjects and students, and not at all about methods or studies or “best practices.” But in this world that’s a difficult thing indeed to maintain. So long as I am actually thinking about how to design an attractive web page, or paint an attractive painting, or use technology responsibly, and how to break that down in to more easily handled bits – then I can be optimistic. But with acronyms and studies and measurable data – then I become cynical again.

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