Friday, August 29, 2008


D is for Discomfort

Recently I heard someone say that a certain teacher “inspired" discomfort in her scholars, and I immediately felt admiration for that teacher. I especially liked the word “inspired” in that context. We normally don’t think of discomfort as being in any way inspiring, but this teacher apparently made it seem somehow stimulating, uplifting, and energizing. She apparently made her scholars feel anxious, but perhaps the anxiety was of the exciting and stirring kind – the type of uneasiness that opens the door to new discoveries and successes. I would like to promote this kind of nourishing discomfort in my classroom this year. I want the scholars to feel a bit uneasy every day, the way they’d feel waiting in line for a roller coaster ride. “What strange thing will happen next?” is a question I would like to be in the forefront of their minds. After all, my primary duty is to teach the appreciation of written and spoken language, and nothing is more opaque, surprising, and perplexing than the meaning of words. The scholars should feel discomfort when studying poems and stories, because only through honest uneasiness will they be able to see into the mysteries of the words. If scholars feel discomfort when reading Shakespeare, perhaps it’s because they’re on the verge of inspiring discoveries.

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