Bending, Not Breaking

Theme for February: Resilience

Thursday, February 4, 2021

In my 45-year career as a teacher, there were many days when I managed to cover very little of my planned lessons, and it usually disheartened me for a time. On those days, I often censured myself after class, thinking that my curriculum was irreparably damaged and that I was a fairly dreadful teacher. Fortunately, however, I usually came around fairly quickly to remembering the value and power of flexibility. According to one dictionary, the word ‘flexible’ means, ‘capable of being bent repeatedly without injury or damage.’ Think of a slim, supple tree limb. Countless storms blow past it in its life, yet it stays as strong as ever, and produces, again and again, its blossoms in the spring. In the wildest storms, the tall pine trees on the sides of mountains simply sway back and forth and await the return of calmness and sunshine. In fact, don’t our arms and legs actually grow stronger when they are ‘flexed’ – when they are bent repeatedly in various kinds of exercise? Not only do they not suffer injury or damage, but because of their limberness, they actually prosper when faced (as in a gym) with stress and resistance. When I ride my bike, pedaling faster and climbing steeper hills only makes my flexible legs become stronger. The more I think about this, the clearer it becomes that the classes in which I failed to complete my lesson might have actually been gifts. My detailed lesson plans ran into resistance, similar to the strong winds a tree faces, but I suffered no serious harm because I remained flexible. I swayed with the distractions and interruptions, and soon enough we usually got back to a fairly unruffled working mode and accomplished a few important things. Looking back on those days, I realize that the ‘winds’ of distractions and interruptions had no ill effects, and, in fact, may have made me a wiser and better teacher. Like the flexible tree limb, I was in my classroom the next day, still strong, still ready to do some bending – but not breaking.

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