Someone left this shirt in the pile in front of the garage door behind the St. Vincent dePaul store on High Street. Apparently she or he no longer found it useful. I found it there and bought it. I’d wear that shirt every day if I could – it’s a good color, a good shape and it’s made of very good fabric. It’s my best shirt. It’s better than the other ones I have in my closet.
When I became a teacher my father warned me: Teachers, he said, wake up every day sure that today is the day their students will find out they don’t know anything. This was a scary statement coming from my father. He taught for sixty years with passion, great personal satisfaction and plenty of acclaim from both students and peers. If he woke up every day with that fear, what was I in for?
John Steele, one of LCC’s most eloquent observers of the learning process, gave me a fresh understanding of my father’s warning. As John teaches students, and any errors in summarizing John’s insights are all mine, all sensory input we receive from our eyes, ears, nose, etc. passes from the brain stem to a place where the brain asks the question, “Am I safe?” If the answer is yes, then the information passes to a second place, where the brain asks: “Am I good enough?” If the answer is yes, then the information is passed along to the part of the brain that performs logical and rational thought – the kind of thinking that will allow me to do problems on the board during Math class, or come up with an insightful answer to a question on the spot. It’s this second area that John dubs the “junior high” brain, and it’s definitely the part that fears public exposure, just as my father warned me it would.
Would it fix the problem, then, to think of my choices as good enough, better, best? When I build curriculum and learning materials, which one do I aim for?
It’s clear from John’s perspective the answer for this creative activity is “good enough.” If I can convince my brain to go for good enough I’ll be free to take risks and make mistakes, which, dare I even think this, are the conditions that incubate my best work.
Problem. To escape my ethnic and cultural assumptions requires stamina and a bigger dose of mindfulness than I have on board at times. I was raised to think of “good” as something others did (best is what we do).
That’s where my best blue shirt comes in.
Thrift stores are filled with items both useless and useful. Their definition lies in the needs and preferences of the shopper. Those items wait side by side for people to sift, sort, try them on, take them home, and if they don’t work out, discard them.
Merlot and youtube are thrift stores. That’s all. What makes a piece of curriculum or teaching material the best? It’s better than the other ones that teacher or student has in the closet. When shall I stop messing with this post and go to bed? When it’s good enough.