Sunday, June 26, 2011

What memory does...

Tonight, as my father headed off to bed about 8:15, he gestured toward the front windows, drapes still open onto the porch and lilacs, the distant street  still dimly visible in the fading light.  As I went across to pull the tangled cord, I was suddenly transported back to my own eight-year-old self, at the same time of night, already in my seersucker nightgown and single bed, peering out the window at my mother and father raking cut grass on the lawn.  They spoke happily to one another, sometimes close, sometimes farther apart with voices raised, working together in the twilight.  I so wanted to be still a part of their world as I had been half an hour before.  I strained to hear them, but their efforts moved them off, until I heard them coming into the back yard, the porch, the kitchen, their voices low and quiet now, conscious of their sleeping daughter—not yet, of course, but soon. 
This is the switching of memory with now, making new memories to be recalled in years to come, when he, too, is gone from present life.  Sometimes it makes me dizzy to think how back-and-forth we are as time passes.  How much more so it must be when life is nearly all behind one, with little likely time ahead.  Perhaps that is what makes the inward-turning aspect that overtakes the old—where nothing in the world around them is as compelling as their inner thoughts.  Must be, they’re listening to the past full time.  

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"First, do no harm..."

It’s too bad educators don’t take some version of the Hippocratic oath…“First, do no harm.”  It would be more difficult to define than it is for Drs, of course.  Harm seems fairly easy to define for a physician—if an action kills the patient, that’s harm.  If they take the wrong leg, or don’t consider the side effects of a new medication, that’s harm.  For teachers, it’s not so easy.   Some might say that teachers don’t have students’ lives in their hands, but we know they do.  Don’t kill the spirit, don’t let your own prejudices show through, don’t deny students’ creativity – so intangible, so different in each situation, so nebulous.  Yet I think there is a sensible and positive way that teachers and educational leaders could promise not to do harm in our schools.  I promise…