I’ve spent a good part of the summer clearing underbrush, in a couple of ways. First, I’ve been using an old-fashioned long handled sickle to hack down the rowdy vines and creepers from parts of the forest around the house, hoping to thereby open up better views of the beautiful trees. As I’ve discovered in many areas of my life, including teaching, clearing things away almost always makes what’s truly important more noticeable, and certainly more impressive. The tall, slender cedars and birches now stand forth in their stately magnificence, as though alone on center stage. I’ve also been figuratively clearing away messy brush from my English curriculum, mostly through online discussions with other English teachers, but also by going over my curriculum with mental clippers and sickle, slicing away whole territories of needless clutter. It’s quite astonishing to realize how sort of tangled and untidy my curriculum has quietly become over the years, almost without my noticing it. With stealth and persistence, “weeds” of all kinds have entangled my syllabus, wrapped themselves around my slender 48-minute class periods until the really important material is sometimes, I fear, almost hidden from the students’ eyes. A little judicious brush cutting in my curriculum – a little clearing away of the needless scrub – will surely help open up the vista so the kids can see the relatively few English concepts and skills that are truly essential for their growth. Right now I’m sitting outside in front of a few stately trees that now stand splendidly and alone, and in a few weeks I’ll start teaching lessons that, let’s hope, will show a similar kind of clearness and simplicity.
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