Sunday, August 03, 2008


L is for Labyrinth

I’ve always had a hunch that my English classes, to my scholars, are somewhat like labyrinths, but only recently have I begun to understand that that’s exactly what they should be. In reading several books and articles about labyrinths, I have learned that once you enter a labyrinth, you are always moving toward the center. It may seem to be a confusing and meandering path, with many apparent detours, but it’s always taking you exactly where you should be going. It follows that wherever you are in the labyrinth is precisely where you should be, because every place is on the path toward “home”. I’m sure the kids in my classes often feel baffled and lost, but I must constantly reassure them that they are always moving in the right direction. Indeed, like the labyrinth, there is only one direction in my classes, and it’s whatever direction we happen to be going in. As muddled as my scholars and I sometimes feel during class, even the muddled feeling is taking us where we should be going. Interestingly, one writer made a distinction between a labyrinth and a maze, saying that a maze requires many choices while a labyrinth requires only one – to enter and be open to where the path leads. This, too, applies to my classes, because, as long as the young people keep an alert and patient attitude, whatever they do in English class will lead to valuable learning of some sort. That suggests that a relaxed approach might be better than an anxious one, and that acceptance might be even more valuable than determination. At one point, I came across some guidelines for walking a labyrinth, and, with a few changes, they could easily be posted at the door of my classroom:

1. Focus: Pause and wait at the entrance. Become quiet and centered. Give acknowledgment through a bow, nod, or other gesture and then enter.

2. Experience: Be purposeful. Observe the process. When you reach the center, stay there and focus several moments. Leave when it’s time for you to leave. Be attentive on the way out.

3. Exit: Turn and face the entrance. Give an acknowledgement of ending, such as "Thanks, classmates and Mr. Salsich."

4. Reflect: After leaving class, reflect back on your experience. Use journaling or drawing to capture your experience.

5. Come back often.

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