In Book 6 of The Prelude, Wordsworth writes of “a flash that … revealed/ The invisible world”, and it occurs to me that it might be the kind of flash that happens occasionally in any English class. It’s a fact that we English teachers and students sometimes deal with the invisible. There are times when we’re like explorers in the world of the veiled, the unseen. In a way, we’re recreational clairvoyants, using a human being’s uncanny ability to see beyond normal sensory contact – beyond the outer shell of words on a page and into the hidden territory of their meanings. We, of course, are visible as we sit at our desks in the classroom, and our tools are certainly visible – books, paper, pencils and pens, laptops -- but we do most of our labor in the kingdom of thoughts, those ghostly artisans that flit through our lives with spirit and influence. A visitor to my classroom might see a fairly lackluster sight – a group of teens and an old guy talking quietly – but what they wouldn’t see is what’s special. Under the surface of the seemingly commonplace conversations, unseen ideas would be dancing around in their own universe. It’s like science fiction, really – a strange, mysterious, concealed world right under our noses in English class.
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