In college I had the honor of taking Elliot Aronson’s last Social Psychology class at UCSC. He had been a professor there for many years and was going to take a position at Stanford. The large lecture hall was packed for that last day, filled with his current and former students. He ended the class by reading the final lines of J.D. Salinger’s “Seymour, An Introduction”. He got all choked up and started to cry midway through. The passage itself is a wonderful reflection on life and teaching, and I get why Professor Aronson choose to end his last class with it. Here is what he read to us that day:
“Nonetheless, I’m done here. There are one or two more fragmentary physical-type remarks I’d like to make, but I feel too strongly that my time is up. Also, it’s twenty to seven, and I have a nine-o’clock class. There’s just enough time for a half-hour nap, a shave, and maybe a cool, refreshing blood bath. I have an impulse-more of an old urban reflex than an impulse, thank God- to say something mildly caustic about the twenty-four young ladies, just back from big weekends at Cambridge or Hanover or New Haven, who will be waiting for me in Room 307, but I can’t finish writing a description of Seymour-even a bad description, even one where my ego, my perpetual lust to share top billing with him, is all over the place-without being conscious of the good, the real. This is too grand to be said (so I’m just the man to say it), but I can’t be my brother’s brother for nothing, and I know-not always, but I know-there is no single thing I do that is more important than going into that awful Room 307. There isn’t one girl in there, including the Terrible Miss Zabel, who is not as much my sister as Boo Boo or Franny. They may shine with the misinformation of the ages, but they shine. This thought manages to stun me: There’s no place I’d really rather go right now than into Room 307. Seymour once said that all we do our whole lives is go from one little piece of Holy Ground to the next. Is he never wrong?
I’m filing this post under classroom management because our own personal happiness as teachers is often the most important ingredient to a positive and productive classroom.