The path

Rembrandt and Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Gaugin, possessed, I believe, powerful hearts, not powerful wills. They loved the range of materials they used. The work’s possibilities excited them; the field’s complexities fired their imaginations. The caring suggested the tasks; the tasks suggested the schedules. They learned their fields and then loved loved them. They worked, respectfully, out of their love and knowledge, and produced complex bodies of work that endured.

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

After teaching for three decades, I believe this: the only thing that separates the good from the bad is caring — about your students, about your field. Not about the weight of your legacy, and definitely not about product (test scores, “outcomes,” sales). Why? You can’t measure what you love. You can’t even direct it. Love is the absence of measurement; who wants to see the receipt from a child’s gift? Go into a classroom with an outcome in mind, students will know there’s a plot afoot…and only those okay with becoming pawns will succeed.

The teachers I know who love what they do and who they work with are artists; all the rest, drones too afraid to find something else to do. Same thing for writers, and parents, bus drivers and painters: if there’s no love, there’s no art. Just activity accompanied by an agenda.

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