“A teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.”
A simple truth. One that I did not always understand. One that I did not always accept. Tough to wrap one’s mind around the idea that he doesn’t really matter. Especially, this one, for he has never comfortably worn the humble hat. He has thought–or at least once thought–that he was necessary, absolutely necessary. But as one learns, one grows, and now this one, realizes more than ever that the best moments in 219 do not happen when he’s the quarterback; rather, they happen when he’s on the bench, a seat that’s gotten more comfortable of late, a seat that for the last two days has been the perfect perch for the incredible game that’s been played out by a group of all stars.
Truly. The kids have performed beyond my wildest expectations. And it has had NOTHING to do with me. Oh, I lent a hand here and there, giving feedback when sought, giving some big-picture direction, giving some encouragement along the way, but in truth what the kids have produced and now delivered was on them–all on them. As I mentioned earlier, I really only provided two things in this process: choice and audience. I gave some general guidelines and soft deadlines, but I prescribed no process. It occurred organically, first by accident and later by design. And now I realize that I had made myself progressively unnecessary, and that made all the difference because when I wasn’t there to call each and every play from the huddle, the kids had to take over and “win” the game on their own.
What’s cool about now looking back is that each kid–given the freedom–discovered his/her own process. And while I am still a little uncomfortable revealing that for many I had barely any input at all, I realize that that discomfort is only growth. Yesterday, Sarah delivered an exceptional piece on her own personal discovery of the justice of gender fluidity and how it has helped her through the agonizing age of adolescence. I didn’t even really know what Sarah’s speech was about until she opened her mouth yesterday. It was incredible and I had nothing to do with it. It feels like I am admitting to malpractice, maybe negligence, but she succeeded without me.
This is not to suggest that I simply let my kids wander around aimlessly for the past four months. I just let them wander enough to discover when they needed me. And some have needed me a great deal, as I have conferenced with them and helped them through multiple revisions of their speeches, but it has been different for each kid. Eva, I believe, probably wrote her sixth–maybe seventh–separate speech last night because each of the previous–though I have suggested they are great–has not quite been “the one” for her. So I let her wander some more. I hope she discovered gold last night. Ben, wrote an oh-my-gosh-the-emotion-is-palpable piece on the injustice of divorce, sharing his own heartbreaking story to an audience that he designated as people who would likely marry some day, warning them of the responsibility of their vows, especially if they had children. I only gave Ben a nudge. He succeeded without me. And the list goes on, a list of growing evidence that I am merely a minor player after all. And that’s okay. My spot on the bench is warm.
Happy Thursday, all.