Monday, July 26, 2010


Echo Bridge, Newton, MA

    In the school year ahead, I’m looking forward to doing less jabbering and more echoing. I’ve known for a long time that I do far too much talking in my classes – too much prattling on about this, that, and the other idea that happens to show up in my mind. Of the thousands of words I speak in class each day, probably half are thoroughly unremarkable, inconsequential, and unnecessary. Silence would be a fine substitute for many of my spoken sentences – silence, or some soft and precise echoing of what the students say. Instead of throwing out words upon words, most of them destined to vanish forever in the vastness of the students’ lives, I could see myself as a quiet mountain valley that can easily contain, and reverberate back to them, the thoughts the students express. In conversation, nothing is as heartening -- and rare -- as hearing our ideas spoken back to us, and perhaps I can do that more often for the sometimes insecure and hesitant young thinkers in my classes. No doubt I must not waver from occasionally speaking my own words of grandfatherly wisdom to the 9th graders as we make our way through the school days, but I also need to be quieter more often, like mountains often are as we move among them. When we speak in the presence of mountains, we occasionally hear our words sent softly back across the air, perhaps reassuring us that, yes, our thoughts are still out there somewhere, and kids need some of the same reassurance. If I repeat back what they say now and then – just shut up and be an honest echo –  maybe they’ll be amazed by the sound of their young ideas.

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