Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Classroom Called Hopeville

I’m thinking of making a sign to hang on the door of my classroom this year:

The Home of 8th Grade English
and a Nice Place to Visit

For years I lived in a town called Hope Valley, and now I live near a state park called Hopeville Pond, so maybe it’s fitting that I use the word “hope” in the name for the little classroom where a few teenagers and an old-time teacher gather round for a while each day. I hope, perhaps naively, that it is a nice place to visit – a place for kids to drop in on their eventful journey through the school day to get some literary refreshment and a few infusions of hope for the rest of the day. Lord knows the students, and all of us, need never-ending supplies of hope in these seemingly frenzied and desperate times, and perhaps my modest English class can do its part in that endeavor. If someone asked my students about their strongest feeling as they left my class, I would be thrilled if they replied, “Hopeful”. To be sure, finding hope in English class shouldn’t be that difficult. Every story, even the darkest, has hope shining somewhere in its sentences, and the students could be sent on a search for it. Plus, there are countless lines and small phrases in the finest poems that are almost prayers of hope, and a single strong sentence in a student essay, if highlighted and praised, could carry a message of hope not only for that student, but for the entire class as well. A teacher could do worse than send the students off with the wind of hope at their backs. I must continue to be a demanding and sometimes stern teacher, but I must also remember to give “the thing with feathers” (as Emily Dickinson described hope) a happy home in my classroom.

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