Day 98, Friday, February 20, 2009
One Teacher’s Alphabet: K is for Kindle
The word ‘kindle’ says a lot about what’s important in teaching. As a middle school English teacher, it’s my responsibility to build a bright fire of ideas for my students each day. Much of this must be done ahead of time, just as a serious builder of fires in the hearth must carefully prepare everything before the match is struck. For each class I must lay in a good stack of well-seasoned and sophisticated ideas, plus a layer of simple starter ideas, like the kindling and paper of the home fire-maker. Next, I must actually ignite the fire – ‘strike’ the ideas in such a way that they light up and glow for the students. If a sunrise can be said to kindle the skies, my lesson plans should be able to strike up a flame in my students. If they don’t – if the lessons fizzle and slowly die out – they’re no better than a failed fire made from unseasoned wood. But of course what I most want to kindle is the emotions and thoughts of the students. If a class is to be successful, the fire of ideas that my lesson hopefully ignites must, in turn, set afire the students’ inner lives. My teaching must somehow kindle an intellectual passion in the scholars. They must leave my classroom with at least a small, new fire glowing somewhere inside.