A class is like a herd of powerful wild young horses: full of energy and potential, lacking in discipline and concrete aim: easily frightened. Some are weak and shot of breath, others stronger and faster than me. Left to themselves they will roam wildly in all directions, turning at each new stimulus. Some will just eat grass; others will lose themselves in the landscape, some will find their way.
I can dominate this group: fence them in and refuse to let them run until they have learned to obey and walk in the way I wish.
I can tie them all together and lead them slowly along a path.
But, what I hope to do is gather their attention and use the energy of the heard to create a rhythm that heads them all towards a common goal and ride on their backs; only needing to nudge them occasionally back on to the path, pointing out landmarks to reach on the way to keep their enthusiasm.
Entering a class after the holidays, I found again all those elements that aren’t in my careful planning: the energy or inertia of a class: the expectations and the prejudgments. The powerful personalities and habits of each individual.
I also meet my own insecurity: I teach full time and I work in an area that is always evolving and changing. Do I know enough? Can I be convincing to students that have little perception of “wisdom and experience”?
There I saw that the point is not to teach, but to provide the environment where students can succeed. Harness and use their energy to advance as I imagined in my metaphor. If I can teach anything it is how to evaluate themselves and the information that they find and how to be clearer in their communication with themselves and others.
To teach that life is a journey, not a race!