Monday, April 05, 2010


There are many arts I should be teaching my students – the art of writing paragraphs, the art of punctuating properly, the art of reading with awareness – but I sometimes forget to teach the art of lingering. In our madcap, breakneck world, lingering has long ago become a lost art, and I need to bring its significance and usefulness to the attention of my students. They need to learn that dawdling can be a highly creative act, and that loitering can lead to learning of the highest order. The beautiful truths available to teenagers (or anyone) don’t reveal themselves to hastiness, but only to long-drawn-out attentiveness.  The kids, I’m afraid, are accustomed to rushing through just about every task, but that simply doesn’t work when you’re exploring a Shakespeare sonnet or a writing a weighty and well-designed essay. I must help them learn to linger lovingly over a phrase of Shakespeare’s, and to dawdle among their own sentences in a search for possible fine-tuning and refinement. They must learn to wait quietly in the middle of a poem, reading the words over and over, passing the time until a truth materializes from out of the lines.  I must help them see the delight that can come from dallying in a chapter of a Dickens novel -- doubling back to some favorite sentences, savoring a paragraph for a full fifteen minutes, tarrying on the last page, hoping the chapter will never end. Rushing, I guess, will get us places faster, but faster doesn’t make it in my English class. A book-loving, word-loving tortoise would get a higher grade than any hare.   

© 2010 Hamilton Salsich

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