bright eyes

I am only ever as good as my last piece of work, and this is precisely why I love being a teacher. As a teacher, I have immediate control over both my product and my consumer, and I can adapt either on a moment’s notice if called to. A classroom is my stage, and it is the only part of the world that I can control completely. The rest of the world can be a battlefield.

I am sad and surprised to admit I have been trudging along into the teeming swarm of chaos that is life in Cambodia so much lately that I easily lost sight of any of the world’s wonder or magic. At its worst, I felt the cruelest thing anyone could do to another person is give birth to them. I forgot there are things I actually enjoy doing that are cathartic and need not be simply part of the pain.

I see the world through the eyes of a person who seeks understanding through creation and expression. I truthfully struggle to imagine how anybody else can view the world, and yet there are plenty of people who may never have shared my compulsion.

In post-genocide Cambodia, it can be argued that mere survival still supersedes any need for creative expression and any remaining natural curiosity has been purposefully discouraged by a centuries old culture that requires subservience and supplication and frowns upon any line of intellectual inquiry.

Before I allow myself to become too easily disillusioned, all I need do is look into the eyes and listen to the voices of my best students. I have such a strong connection to any young person in this environment who defiantly refuses to accept what they have been forcefully given.

My kid, Leni

My kid, Leni

Of course, I have some typical Cambodian students who have had their inquisitiveness effectively drilled out of them by a system that actively discourages any curiosity. In fact, the saddest words I regularly hear from students are “I have no ideas, teacher.” These young people quite literally mean they no longer have the ability to think. This, for me, is a critical challenge that again I must admit can be disheartening. Yet, these are the very students who continually, and thankfully, force me to become a better teacher. ~Indeed, my worst students are my best teachers.

Fortunately, like minds are naturally drawn to one another, and I am so very lucky to find myself surrounded more times than not by bright eyes with minds hungry for knowledge of a world that can no longer be kept away from them as it was kept from their parents and grandparents.

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