Thursday, August 07, 2008


During a pause on my bike ride today, I got a chance to study a stretch of clouds above a field, and, with the new school year approaching, it brought me around to thinking about my English classes. What was interesting about the clouds above the field was that they appeared to be totally stationary and unchanging. A quick glance would have led a person to that conclusion - just a mass of temporarily motionless clouds. However, as I stared at them - actually studied them for a few minutes - it became clear that they were, indeed, slowly and subtly changing their shape. Within ten minutes, in fact, they had been totally transformed from what they were when I first stopped. As I rode away, I thought about how often my scholars and I see something - a story or a poem, for instance - as being fixed and even a bit monotonous, only to discover through careful study that significant, even turbulent, changes are happening inside it. At first glance, a story, like the clouds today, may seem fairly uninteresting, but if the scholars and I are able to stay with it and actually scrutinize it, we almost always uncover some concealed and fascinating details. It goes back, I guess, to the dreary phrase the nuns endlessly repeated to us back at Our Holy Redeemer school - "pay attention". They said it so often that it lost its meaning for me, but the truth the words contain is unassailable. We learn nothing if we don't pay attention. Because I was able to give my entire and careful attention to the bank of clouds above the field today, I learned something about them, and during this coming school year, my scholars and I may, if we pay attention, have the same kind of good fortune.

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