Being and Pretending-to-Be
The provision of the Constitution giving the war-making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This, our Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us.
THE CONVERSATION I REPORTED yesterday reminded me of myself, years ago, and of a kind of spiritual phenomenon I've observed since then.
My first two years in the classroom, as a high school teacher, were a disaster. One of the reasons for this is that I was too busy pretending to be a teacher to do any effective teaching.
I didn't realize it at the time, of course, but I was more focused on acting in a teacher-like manner than I was on teaching.
One consequence of this was a very hierarchical approach to the classroom. I wanted my authority there to be unquestionable, and so I was an absolute control freak.
This didn't mean I had any.
I was so busy chasing down every infraction that I barely got anything else done. And, in a classroom where very little is happening students get bored, which leads to more infractions.
My classes were chaotic, I was constantly frustrated, and I couldn't guess whether I or my students were more miserable.
Sometime during the second year all of that changed. I can't say I understood why at the time, but looking back, I now realize that the shift had to do with new focus. I had begun to care more about what my students were learning than whether I appeared to be a teacher.
My classes were still chaotic for a while, but the chaos developed a new tone: it was the chaos of productivity. I ceased to care whether there was total silence in the room or not, as long as there was learning in the room.
I don't really know how this internal shift occurred, or why. But over the years I've come to notice the distinction between the person who is focused on the job and the person who is focused on the position.
It shows up at every level: the boss who's more interested in obedience than productivity, the worker who's more interested in looking productive than being productive. It happens in hamburger stands and in boardrooms. It even happens in families, and in Washington, D.C..
I don't know the solution.
If someone had come to me, that first year of teaching, and told me to forget about looking like a teacher and just focus on teaching, would I have understood what they meant?
Perhaps. Perhaps if it had been someone I trusted, if they had said it not once but many times, if they had given examples, encouraged my progress.
But I'm not sure.
Not sure at all.