Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I remember being enthralled when I read Don Quixote years ago, and this week I’ve been thinking of the brave but bewildered knight errant as another new school year comes into view on the horizon. Like countless readers, I loved the Don for his wacky willingness to simply accept what comes along and do what must be done. I especially admired his eagerness to just go where the next moment led him. We are told that, as he set out on his first adventure, “he pursued his way, taking that path which his horse chose, for in this he believed lay the essence of adventure.” The word “adventure” catches my attention there, because that’s precisely what learning and teaching should be – a somewhat impetuous and unconstrained expedition. During this coming year, I hope to do a little Don Quoxote-style teaching as my young students and I explore the territories of good literature and their own rough-and-ready writing. I’ll have my lesson plans prepared, of course, but I might occasionally give a lesson a gentle kick in the side at the start of class and just see where it takes us. With my teaching reins held a little more loosely than usual, it might be fun, for instance, to follow a lesson on symbolism in The Tempest, even if it decides to take the path called "characterization" shortly after starting. From there it might wander down the trail of "the theme of friendship", and might end up stopping at the waterhole of "iambic pentameter". I must confess that it’s not easy for me to teach this way, since my bent is naturally toward orderliness and single-mindedness, but I might be able to do a little Don imitation now and then – be a little errant and wayward, let my usually disciplined lessons kick up their heels and have their capricious way.

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