For some reason, I began thinking about the word “assuage” today, and before long I realized it could help me understand something about teaching. When we “assuage”, we make something burdensome or painful less intense or severe, and surely that’s part of my work as an English teacher. Severely burdened with their school work, the students often walk into my classroom with a somber look, and it’s my task to help ease their load somewhat. Rather than adding to their pain by encumbering them with more work, I need to assuage the ache by showing them how to make their school work easier. Instead of giving them additional challenges (which is how I often thought of my job in the past), I should show them techniques for overcoming the many academic challenges they already have. As opposed to simply intensifying the pressure of their school work, I need to show them how to relieve it. Fortunately, as an English teacher, I have tailor-made techniques for this. If I can show them how to make writing school papers easier and more fulfilling, and how to read complicated books in an intelligent and efficient manner, I will surely take some of the weight off their shoulders. If I can provide them with tools that can make them more sophisticated writer and readers, then any writing and reading assignment from other classes will become less troublesome. In this way, I can assuage rather than intensify, alleviate rather than “pile on”. If there’s such a word as “assuager”, that’s precisely what I should be in my classroom.