Thursday, December 17, 2009


This morning before school I read Wallace Stevens’ poem, “The Latest Freed Man”, and I’m glad I did, because I think it helped to create a rewarding situation in one of my classes.  In the poem, as I interpret it, the man is “freed” because he has “escaped from the truth” and the “doctrine” of things, and later in the day I rather miraculously escaped from the “truths” and “doctrines” we teachers sometimes burden ourselves with. Unfortunately, I occasionally come to class weighed down with pedagogical theories, which makes my teaching, on those days, rather hesitant and halting as I try to figure out how to make the theories work.  Today, however, in a 5th period class (perhaps, in part, because I had read the poem), I somehow slipped out from under that burden, and, like the “freed man”, I saw “the moment’s sun” – the simple amazingness of having a group of perceptive teenagers join me in a discussion of a good short story. For a few moments, all the complexities and obscurities of teaching – all the so-called truths and doctrines -- blew away like clouds and I was left with the straightforward strength of a few kids and an old man talking from their hearts. In his poem, Stevens suggests that this strength that I felt with my students is “the strength that is the strength of the sun”, meaning, maybe, that it comes from someplace far deeper and vaster than my little teacher brain. Theories, buzzwords, jargon, and the frantic machinery of one teacher’s mind can’t create the kind of fresh and bona fide excitement my students and I felt today. As the poem says, “it was everything being more real.” In an odd way, I felt, for those few moments, like we were “[a]t the centre of reality.” In Room 2, “[i]t was everything bulging and blazing and big in itself.”


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