Wednesday, July 02, 2008


R is for Room

One of my most important goals as a teacher is to help my students see that there’s a lot of room in their lives – in fact, an infinite amount of room. This is important because many of my students, I’m afraid, are afflicted with a sense of very little room – a sense of being pressured, manipulated, and squeezed into a fairly small area. They often have the feeling that there’s one best answer, one best way to behave, one best way to look, one best way to think, perhaps one best way to live. When they look around at their lives, they probably see a very limited area in which they are free to operate. In some ways, the universe must seem quite small to them, and therefore fairly scary. What I would like to do, as one of their teachers, is help them expand their view – help them see how broad and far-reaching their prospects really are. In fact, there are truly no boundaries whatsoever, except those erected in their own minds by their own thoughts. My students, like their English teacher, live in a limitless universe, a place where literally anything is possible for anyone at any time. As I wrote that sentence, I was reminded of the feeling I used to get when, as a child, I rode in my parents car over the crest of a hill west of St. Louis and caught the first glimpse of what we called “the country” spreading out for what seemed like endless miles. It always took my breath away because there seemed to be an astonishing amount of “room” out there among those hills and valleys. I guess I hope my students will figuratively gasp for breath, now and then, as they glimpse the limitless nature of their lives. Through reading great literature and allowing their thoughts to bloom and flourish in paragraphs, essays, and poems, perhaps the students will crest the summits of mental hills again and again, and catch a vision of the vastness of the “room” in which they, and all of us, live.

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