Now that baseball season is approaching, I’ve been wondering where “home” is in English class. In baseball, home is the place the players try to get to, the ultimate destination, the goal that means a team is closer to winning the game. It’s interesting that home is also the place where a batter starts from, so coming home means he has been successful mainly because he is back where he began. In a sense, he’s made absolutely no progress, and because of that, he has accomplished precisely what he desired. As I’ve been thinking about it, it’s occurred to me that, in English class, the students sometimes succeed in a similar way – by, you might say, making no progress and ending exactly where they began. In writing, as they approach the final words, they try to find their way back to the beginning of the piece in order to remind the reader of the overall point. At the very end of the writing, they come home again to the main idea, which is exactly where they started. (Perhaps they hear in their minds their teacher cheering as they make it home.) In daily lessons, too, I try to lead the students home again at the end of class, bringing them back to where we started, rounding the lesson into a finished circle. In May and June, the yearly curriculum also, I hope, leads the kids home as we review the year, going back to topics we started in the fall and winter. We journey far each year in our exploration of English topics, but it’s important that we come back home at the end, just to take a breath and admire the distance we traveled. Of course, in one sense, we do make progress through the year, the students and I, but perhaps it’s the kind of progress the hero makes in the fairy tale about the man who journeys far and wide in search of a treasure, only to return home and find it in his own backyard. We discover new talents and insights as the months pass, but maybe, in an odd sort of way, the talents and insights have been with us all along, and we uncover them in English class by simply coming home, again and again, to our best selves. Perhaps my students and I score more runs in a school year than a baseball player could ever dream of.
© 2010 Hamilton Salsich
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