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A concerned member of the human race

Monday, August 11, 2014


I first found myself in front of a class as a teaching assistant--in a classroom with some "kids" older than myself.  Even college kids try to challenge their teacher in the beginning of the year, especially when the teacher looks young or inexperienced.  One student asked, "how old are you?"  I answered the only thing that came to mind, "older than the hills."  

On that first day, I asked students to come up with quotes that might help me learn a little more about them.  I remember some of them as if it was only yesterday.  One student quoted Lao-Tzu, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."  I find the advice timeless, especially as I watch my children take their first steps in life.

Another student wrote, "bloody, but unbowed."  At the time, I didn't recognize the poetical allusion, but I have since sought the quote in William Ernest Henley's "Invictus." It is also timeless:

OUT of the night that covers me,
  Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
  For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance         5
  I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
  My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
  Looms but the Horror of the shade,  10
And yet the menace of the years
  Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
  How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:  15
  I am the captain of my soul.

Surrounded by self-satisfied statisticians touting the junk science of VAM, I sometimes feel that I am no longer "the master of my fate."  I, and indeed, any one of my colleagues, may be judged grossly ineffective through no fault of our own.  So many unrecognized variables figure into the calculations and we may fall victim to any one of them.  I can control myself, but I cannot control the needs of my students, the social and emotional issues they face, the punitive nature of tests, the size of my class, the quality of our supplies and so many other things.

Yet, ultimately, in how I react to these things, I know I am still the "master of my fate."  In the great scope of things, VAM is inconsequential and history will judge it as so.  We are still  the captains of our soul.  To reference another quote from that first day on the job, neither clothes, nor VAM, make the man!

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