Monday, July 28, 2008


“Watch Your Step”

This idiom would be a fine motto for my young English scholars. I especially like the word “watch” because it suggests the kind of vigilance that I try to foster in my class – a vigilance that seems uncommon among young people these days. During class, I ask my youthful scholars to be constantly on the alert, attentive as much as possible to the nuances of the subject at hand. Neither slouching nor side conversation is allowed. They know I expect them to watch what’s happening in class as carefully as an on-duty sailor watches from the deck. This is a challenging request for the kids, since heedlessness seems far more prevalent these days than awareness. I see a kind of rash impetuosity in many young people, brought on probably by the impulsiveness of the world around them. The scholars come panting into my class and then dash out the door at the end, hoping to make it to their next activity, requirement, meeting, or duty only a few minutes late. It’s a rushed and hassled world they live in, hardly the kind of environment to encourage “watching your step”. However, in English, I try to turn that environment 180°. Instead of glancing at the subject at hand, the scholars inspect it; instead of a perfunctory look, they take a thorough look; instead of just hearing the words of their classmates, they listen carefully to what they mean. Perhaps by all of us watching our step, none of us -- teacher or scholars -- will be likely to “trip up” in English class.

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