Friday, October 03, 2008

Teaching Journal 08-09
Day 19, October 3

“[They] walked living among the forms of thought
To see their lustre truly as it is.”
--Wallace Stevens, in “The Owl in the Sarcophagus”

I came across these lines the other day, and they started me thinking about the actual content of my English courses. As I studied the lines, I realized more and more that the content of my course is not books or grammar rules or essay guidelines, but rather, as Stevens says, “the forms of thought”. My students and I deal with thoughts, not things. In a way, Room 2 is more a mental world than a physical one, where the light, or “lustre”, is provided more by our thoughts than the flourescent bulbs above us. What I hope we can do is see this “lustre truly as it is” – really examine our thoughts, both in essays and discussions, in order to appreciate the ceaseless glow they send off.
When I started talking at the start of one class, I happened to notice that one girl immediately opened her class notes folder and began writing. It pleases me that some – perhaps many – of the scholars are settling into that routine. A successful academic life has much to do with mastering routines – trustingly and watchfully following the paths prescribed by teachers. More often than not, those paths will lead to knowledge worth working for.
I was happy to see that one extremely reserved girl volunteered to help with the puppet show at the end of class today. She raised her hand with a smile, and the smile fully bloomed when I called out her name for the cast. She was a quiet participant, but at one point she said these lines with a soft kind of stateliness: “Oh my.”

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