Saturday, December 27, 2008


It is, of course, important that students obey any rules I establish for my classroom, but I also want to promote another kind of obedience. Interestingly, the word ‘obey’ derives from the Latin oboedire, which originally meant ‘to listen to’ – and I want to encourage my students to listen to their own thoughts as much as to my rules and regulations. One of their most solemn duties – and one they sorely neglect, I’m afraid – is to pay attention to and abide by the inspirations that arise inside them. They need to listen to themselves as alertly as they listen to me. Unfortunately, this seems to be a challenging task for my students, I suppose because they have often been exposed to environments that have not encouraged them to think highly of their own thoughts. It’s probably been suggested to them, sometimes in veiled and subtle ways, that they must, first and foremost, hearken to the thoughts of their elders, and that their own ideas must be viewed with guardedness and hesitancy. From this arises the timidity I often see in my students as they abashedly attempt to share a thought during class or compose a sentence in an essay. It’s as if they are saying to themselves, “This is a dumb idea. Why am I even thinking it?” What I hope to gradually convey to them is the fact that their own thoughts are at least as reasonable as mine, and sometimes more so, since they arise out of the wholesomeness and sincerity of childhood. I want them to treat their thoughts like the first sproutings of flowers, considerately cultivating them to see what the blossoms bring. That’s the kind of ingenuous obedience that might transform a classroom from a friendly autocracy into a true neighborhood of scholars.

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