Friday, November 13, 2009

Not long ago, I overheard someone say they were hiking in a forest and soon found themselves in the middle of nowhere, and it reminded me of one of my more atypical goals for my 9th grade students. I would like them to feel somewhat lost in each class. I hope they occasionally feel befuddled, bewildered, dumbfounded, maybe even a little frightened by what I ask them to do. If, when we’re working on a new writing technique or exploring a new work of literature, they feel like they’re “in the middle of nowhere”, I say good for them, for now they can have the stirring experience of finding their way to somewhere. We often forget that in order to experience enlightenment we have to first be in darkness – that the pleasure of knowledge can only come after the discontent of ignorance. If my students are never “in the middle of nowhere” when they’re reading a poem, how will they feel the thrill of finding the somewhere of the poem’s heart and soul? In a sense, teaching English, for me, is about creating darkness so the students can better appreciate light. We don’t read “easy” books in my class – books that are totally filled with light – because then no finding, sighting, unearthing, uncovering, or stumbling upon is possible, and aren’t these what learning is all about? I force my students to read indistinct and shadowy books and work their way through foggy essay assignments, because there’s always the possibility of some sudden light ahead.

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