Sunday, February 10, 2008


O is for Origins

The other day, Joanne, an 8th grade student, made a brilliant observation about how Our Town related to a popular song we had listened to, and all I could think of was where did that idea come from? How, at about 10:15 on Wednesday, February 6, 2008, did that profound and illuminating thought come to Joanne in Room 2 of our little school in Connecticut? It’s way too easy, and an evasion of the question, to say it came from her ‘brain’. It’s a much bigger mystery than that – a boundless and immeasurable mystery, in fact. We receive thousands of ideas each day, but where in the world (the universe?) do they come from? I guess that question is one of the grand enigmas that keeps me enthralled by this work of teaching. Every time I consider the mystery of where my students’ (and my) ideas come from, I feel awestruck and humbled by the incomprehensibility of this work that I engage in each day. I pretend that I’m involved in a fairly routine and understandable kind of endeavor – planning lessons, grading essays, having conferences with kids, sending reports home – but, when I’m completely honest, I have to admit that I have about as much understanding of teaching and learning as I do of the vastness of space. Each day, hundreds of thousands of new-born ideas go soaring and swirling around my classroom, and Joanne, her classmates, and I can only marvel at it all. We’re involved in a mental adventure that has no known beginning and no foreseeable ending, no origins and no boundaries. I guess all we can do is take an occasional deep breath and enjoy the trip.

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