In my teaching this year, I’m hoping to eliminate at least one troublesome boundary. In any classroom, of course, there must be the usual beneficial boundaries between adult and child, as well as the requisite boundaries between proper and improper behavior, but I’m hoping to do away with the make-believe boundary between the people in the classroom – the imaginary fence my students and I seem to see between each one of us. Jimmy’s over here, and he feels separated from Julie over there, and they both see boundaries between each of them and all the others (including me) in the classroom. It’s as though each of us believes we’re on our own personal island, separated by concealed barriers from everyone else. This year I want to help us better understand that, when you’re doing the cheerful work of sharing thoughts and feelings (which is what teaching English is basically all about), there are simply no boundaries. Jimmy’s idea, once he shares it in class, crosses all pretend boundary lines and becomes part of all of us. His idea is now our idea, which means that, in a strange and wonderful sense, his life is now our life. Even unspoken thoughts know no boundaries, as Julie thinks about Tom’s idea and thus, in a small way, becomes part of Tom’s life, and Tom wonders why Annie doesn’t like the poem they’re discussing, and therefore finds a part of Annie inside him. There’s entirely too strong a feeling of isolation in the world today, and I don’t intend to add to it in English class. When people come together to read and write with truthfulness, the false boundaries, of necessity, break down, and the thinkers and speakers become one. Trouble is, the kids usually don’t realize they’re in such a wide-open, boundary-less place in English class, but I hope to change that this year.
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