Monday, December 22, 2008

“[The poet Percy Bysshe] Shelley speculated that poets of all ages contributed to one Great Poem perpetually in progress.”
-- Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence

I love Shelley’s idea, and I like to apply it to my line of work. It pleases me to think that all teachers everywhere are helping to teach one Great Class that’s ceaselessly in progress. We’re separated by distances and times, and some of us are 1st grade teachers, others teach 7th grade math, and others struggle and celebrate in the classrooms of high schools and colleges, but the aim of our instruction is basically the same – to uncover and share ideas that will improve lives. We teachers are involved with thoughts more than things – and thoughts are not confined to any one teacher or student or classroom. The ideas we discover and nourish in our classrooms go forth with our students and are spread abroad like imperceptible seeds in the wind. What is taught in a 4th grade room in a village in China ripples out endlessly in secret, transformative ways. Students in upstate New York receive the blessings, though indiscernible to them, of thoughts spawned in classrooms in Texas, New Zealand, and elsewhere. We work not alone in our classrooms, but jointly and collectively – the lone human family sharing knowledge and constructing wisdom. We’re all in one immeasurable class, journeying toward a graduation that – thankfully – will never happen.

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