Tuesday, September 29, 2009


The word “acquiescence”, at least in my experience, has usually carried a negative connotation – a sense that a person is reluctantly giving in – but this morning my dictionary reminded me that it derives from the Latin word for “quiet”, which offered a new perspective on the word. When students in my class acquiesce to my efforts on their behalf (my lessons, assignments, demands, suggestions, etc.), perhaps they’ve simply decided to settle into a place of peace and quiet for themselves. Rather than necessarily implying a submissive and defeated attitude, their acquiescence may actually originate in their hope that accepting my plans for them may give rise to the feeling of concord that new knowledge and understanding sometimes creates. They may not love being in English class, but they may bow to my wishes because they’re hoping for the inner quietness that learning something new occasionally produces. We might even drop the ‘a’ in the word. Perhaps the kids yearn, without even realizing it, for a more quiescent life, a life marked, not by indolence but by simple peacefulness, which sometimes can come from just understanding a school subject better. The students may protest within themselves when the lesson on commas drags on, but they usually comply, perhaps because acceptance is more peaceable than resistance, but also because maybe these silly punctuation rules could make their school lives a bit more successful, and therefore more relaxed. Maybe they’ve grown temporarily tired of feeling stressed and frenzied, and see in old Mr. Salsich’s quiet (though sometimes tiresome) lessons an opening into at least a few minutes of serenity.

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