Friday, December 18, 2009


    I would like my classes to be like the poetry in Longfellow’s “Evangeline” – elegant in a simple way. I’ve always enjoyed poetry that hides its beauty in ease and unfussiness, and “Evangeline” does that. The lines are outwardly unadorned -- no rhyme, no artistic stunts, just a graceful story modestly told – but somehow the poet conceals genuine beauty in each of the straightforward lines. He cloaks elegance in the plainest and most natural covering, which is what I would like to do in my classes. I wish each class could proceed with the cleanness and neatness of this line: “White as the snow were his locks, and his cheeks as brown as the oak-leaves.” There’s nothing tricky in that line, and I hope there’s nothing tricky in my teaching. The poet speaks with openness and simplicity, and I want my teaching to work in a similar way. Ironically, it takes hard work to create poetry that’s beautiful in a simple way, and the same is true for teaching. The word “elegance” derives from the Latin word meaning “to choose”, which suggests that both the poet and the teacher, if they want to create true elegance, must carefully choose the arrangements of their words and lessons. Elegance doesn’t often just happen; it comes about because someone takes the time to thoughtfully select, mix, match, arrange, and polish. Longfellow did that in the writing of “Evangeline”, and I would like to do that in my 8th grade classes. Each class a plain but handsome poem: that would be a goal to aim for.

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