I often come to class well armed with preconceived notions, opinions, conclusions, verdicts, and utter seriousness, but, almost without fail, my students do something within the first few minutes that totally disarms me. They are a charming lot, these teens from far different planets than mine. A youthful smile flashed like a sparkle of sunshine can cause my careful reserve to crumble pretty quickly, and giggles from a few fourteen-year-olds can almost always start me smiling, no matter how staid and humorless I want to be. As the years have passed, I have found the harmless foolishness and ingenuousness of teenagers to be more and more beguiling. In a world gone crazy with seriousness and self-absorption, my young students bring a refreshing measure of madness and generosity to my life. They live their lives like cars careening around cliffs and sharp corners, sometimes smashing up, I’m sure, but always traveling in a sort of boundless and sincere way. They are irresistible in their ability to bring me down from my pretentious, bookish heights with a grin or a goofy joke. They can win me over so simply, even by staring with joyfulness at a strange, bright bird outside on the feeder when they’re supposed to be bending over a passage from The Tempest. They know, and I should, that a red-breasted grosbeak in spring beats ten-syllable lines any day.
2010 Hamilton Salsich