Monday, July 05, 2010

English Class Concerts

It occurs to me every so often that the dignified atmosphere I insist on in my classes can, in some ways, be compared to what you might see at a classical orchestra concert. First of all, there’s a hush in the concert hall as the musicians silently enter, as though something extraordinary is about to occur, and I insist that students enter my classroom in a similarly dignified kind of silence. Both the orchestra and my students are expected to present distinguished performances, and therefore they should both set a suitably decorous mood beforehand. I wouldn’t expect musicians to enter the concert hall conversing and jostling, and neither do I expect it from my students. I also recall, now, that an orchestra doesn’t begin its concert before taking a moment to make sure their instruments are in proper tune, and perhaps we need to do something similar in English class. Perhaps we should use the first two or three minutes to “prepare” ourselves to take part in distinguished, scholarly discussions and activities. A few moments of complete silence at their places might be fitting – a little time to lay a foundation for studious work by settling thoughts and allowing the bewilderment of their young lives to clear away. If all of this sounds like I want my classes to be grimly solemn – not at all. I always hope for some cheerful laughter during class – the joviality of junior scholars enjoying their academic labors – but one of the best kinds of cheerfulness, to me, arises from doing dignified work in a stylish way. Like musicians in an orchestra, we can have great fun while we’re “performing”, and we can do it best by behaving in a properly honorable manner.

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