Monday, November 02, 2009


As the years have passed, I have grown increasingly interested in developing a sense of precision in my classroom. I don’t mean a finicky and slavish devotion to nit picking, just a sensible commitment to exactness and accuracy of expression or detail. The word “precise” comes from the Latin word for “cut”, and I would like to encourage all of us (my students and me) to “cut out” the details of each activity with confident meticulousness. As if we are working with high-level artist scissors, each facet of an action should be created with the ultimate kind of attention and regard. It seems to me that nature works this way. The wing of a butterfly is a model of exactitude, as is the landscape of never-ending stars above us, as are the zillion intricate cells within our bodies. Everything in the wide natural world, from a snowflake to a v-shaped string of geese in the sky, is specific, detailed, and explicit, and we try to aim for that in my classroom. Another word to use would be “accurate”, which I like because it comes from the Latin word for care. I want to promote a sense of caring in my students and me – the awareness that all things need to treated with sincere and compassionate care, including English assignments. When the students are accurate in their work on an essay, they are caring for it – watching over the sentences and nurturing the paragraphs until the essay comes to a fulfilling finishing point. When they read with precision, they are caring for the ideas and images contained in the words the way they would care for anything special and precious. It’s a good way to live, this caring for things in a precise and conscientious manner, whether in a small English classroom or in our larger, often loose and imprecise lives.

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