Sunday, March 07, 2010


“He was early impassioned by ideas, and burned his fire on those heights.”
-- George Eliot, Daniel Deronda

When I’m teaching a class, it sometimes suddenly comes to me that I’m doing mickey mouse stuff – striking small matches for the students when I should be setting serious fires. So often, my lessons seem to be about the little details of English teaching – comma rules, participles, point of view, setting, etc. I regularly find myself slogging with a class through the relative dreariness of literary terminology and grammar guidelines, as the students slowly slip to the wayside in drowsiness. I always have the best intentions when I’m planning my curriculum, but as the weeks pass, the comparative unimportance of many of my lessons becomes uncomfortably clear.   Ideas are what English class should be mostly focused on, not niceties like the ins and outs of punctuation rules.  My students and I read stories and poems packed with inspiration, and that’s the fire I should be fanning. Certainly the technical aspects of English can’t be ignored, but most of my teaching should be done on “those heights” where sizeable ideas can be set aflame.

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