Saturday, July 19, 2008


A friend recently suggested that the principle of “expansion and contraction” operates everywhere, and as we talked, I wanted to add “even in a good classroom”. She gave numerous examples: the heart rising and falling, the lungs swelling and shrinking, the spreading warmth of summer and the constricting cold of winter, the opening of dawn and the closing of darkness. She said it was, to her, the primary principle of the universe, of all reality. Life comes and goes, rises and falls, gives and takes, spreads out and squeezes in. After we talked, I gave further thought to how this principle might function in a good classroom. For every expansive discussion, perhaps there should be a time of restraint and privacy, a time of silent contemplation. After twenty minutes of passionate conversation, a teacher might announce ten minutes of quiet thinking. In addition, it might be unrealistic to expect young scholars to exert their most concentrated effort for a full 48-minute class, just as it would be unrealistic to expect our lungs to continuously take in air. For every energetic in-breath there has to be a relaxing out-breath, and for every period of activity in the classroom perchance their needs to be a period of total rest. It might be that a good classroom needs to work the way the lungs work – give and take, open and close, work and rest. According to my friend, it’s the way the universe behaves, and what better model could a teacher find?

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