Tuesday, April 24, 2007

One of my hopes as a teacher is that my students will perform their various academic duties with aplomb. I’ve always loved that word (perhaps as much for the wonderful sound of it as anything), and I recently discovered, interestingly enough, that it derives from the Latin word “plumbum”, meaning a lead weight. We get the word “plumb line” from this – a line from which a weight is suspended to determine verticality or depth. Only when the lead weight at the end of the line hangs utterly motionless is the measurement taken. I think of my students as they labor away at their English tasks, and I hope they can remain, in a sense, as motionless, calm, tranquil, and composed as the lead weight on a plumb line seems to be. The weight and its line are totally at rest as they hang in space, and I’m hopeful that my students can learn to practice a similar kind of restfulness as they go about their work as students. That is true aplomb – the ability to, at the same time, work hard and rest easily, the ability to simultaneously labor and relax. These have always been the kind of people I have most admired – those who accomplish much but do so in a serene and almost blithe manner. The plumb line performs a vital task for engineers, builders, and others, and it does this by remaining totally still. Perhaps I can help my young students practice the same kind of stillness in the midst of the demanding whirlwinds of school.

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