I’ve often thought (and written) about the role surprises play in good teaching and learning, and this morning I started wondering whether my students and I could purposely search for surprises. Could we set out, at the start of each class, to discover as many surprises as possible? Could it be a sort of magical quest each day: Who can find the most interesting surprise in this poem or story? If we did this, maybe we would find ourselves using words related to “surprise”. We might say that a sentence in a story came as a shock to us, or that the final paragraph in an essay was a total bombshell. Someone might say he was staggered to discover a totally new meaning in a line of poetry, and a girl might tell us she is thoroughly flabbergasted by the current writing assignment. Maybe a chapter in a novel will take us by surprise or catch us off guard or catch us red-handed. Who knows, we might spend an entire class period in utter bewilderment as we try to find our way through some Emily Dickinson poems. We might have rude awakenings day after day as we explore The Tempest. In the play, Ariel says he “flamed amazement” around the ship carrying Prospero’s enemies, and perhaps I need to send my students (and myself) on a search for some of those flames in every English class. We could search our books and writings for surprises that leave us open-mouthed, dumbfounded, stupefied, dazed, taken aback, shaken up, and floored.
© 2010 Hamilton Salsich