Wednesday, June 23, 2010


In the midst of doing some outdoor chores today, I took a moment to stand back and observe the birds at a hanging feeder nearby. It wasn’t much – just a minute or two – but it was enough to bring to mind again the magnificence of the most commonplace occurrences, the day-by-day events that could thrill me if I simply stood back and actually watched now and then. They were just small brown birds stopping for food, so slight and silent they surely go unnoticed by humans for hours and days on end, but today the thought came to me to stop, look, and listen – and I saw a bit of nature’s daily splendor. It made me wish I could remember to stand back a bit more often when I’m teaching. I’m usually so busy being an officious, overly zealous teacher trying my best to meet my own high standards that I rarely pause to ponder what’s right in front of me – a group of young human beings the likes of which have never existed before. Here’s newness and freshness at its finest – kids whose zillions of cells are remade every second, whose thoughts always blossom (or explode) in slightly new ways, and whose next moment, at all times, is a bolt from the blue.  How is it that I can so often teach an entire lesson without recognizing the greatness that sits before me? No doubt someone might say, “Oh come on. They’re just a bunch of ordinary teenagers” – but to me that’s like saying the Grand Canyon is just a valley made of rocks. I suppose there are people who would be bored by the Grand Canyon (or some brown birds pecking seeds), just as there are people who think teaching teenagers would be the height of tedium and triviality. I’ve been to the famous canyon, and I find it astonishing, but no more so – and I’m totally serious – than what I behold when I occasionally stand back and open my eyes in English class. 

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