Sunday, July 25, 2010
A Kaleidoscopic English Class
Oddly enough, reading about kaleidoscopes today got me thinking about my work as a teacher of teenagers. I loved playing with those strange cylinders when I was a kid, and what amazed me the most, I recall, was the fact that every single twist of the tube brought a beautiful symmetric pattern into view. There were no flubs, no unsightly patterns, no designs that seemed even slightly unbalanced. However many times I turned the tube, something delightful and beautiful always became visible. It’s not easy, but I sometimes try to look at my groups of students as though through a kaleidoscope. I doubt if a visitor would use the word “beautiful” to describe any particular scene in my classes (we’re just an everyday kind of teacher and some fairly commonplace kids), but I try my best to look through the kaleidoscope of my inner vision. Even a run-of-the-mill 9th grade English class can seem extraordinary when seen with the miraculous help of optimistic assumptions and high expectations. Kaleidoscopes do their tricks with mirrors, and I guess you might say I use the mirrors of my abiding belief that startling miracles can happen in every class, and at any moment. Perhaps because I try to look for the miracles, they seem to be there more often than not. Even a silent and seemingly glum group of English students can suddenly, at the turn of a moment, seem like serious scholars – if I’m watching, and if I’m using my secret inner kaleidoscope.