Friday, October 16, 2009


Out for a walk the other day, I passed a beautiful pot of flowers on a doorstep, and it brought to mind the beautiful writing my students often do. You might wonder how good writing can possibly be compared to flowers that have been trained, trimmed, and pressed into a pot, forced to grow where and how we want them to grow, trained to look the way we want them to look – but I am actually thrilled to receive essays each week that are reminiscent of the pots of flowers my mother used to keep on the back porch. The writing in these essays may not be terribly “creative” or liberated or dazzling or unconventional, but it is often orderly and clear, and there’s usually some kind of beauty to be found in orderliness and clarity. An art masterpiece in the Louvre has orderliness and clarity, as do chrysanthemums in a back porch pot, as do the simple essays my 9th grade scholars share with me each week. As my mother used to do with her flowers, the students sometimes treat their sentences with great care, sensibly crafting them and placing them in uncluttered arrangements that bring out the distinctive qualities of their words. They gently “plant” them in an essay, you might say, and then they present the essay to me the way you might give a carefully wrapped gift to someone. I haven’t received a pot of flowers in years, if ever, but each week I get dozens of essays, many made up of neatly arranged paragraphs in full bloom before my eyes.

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