Yesterday, working in the woods, I rolled over what looked like an entirely lifeless log, only to discover swarms of minuscule creatures crawling every which way, and it reminded me of my sometimes lifeless-looking classroom. Truly, a visitor to my room at a given time might see what appears to be unresponsive and even comatose teenagers sitting around a table, close on the borders of daydreams and slumber. I assume this happens in most teachers’ classes, but I know it does in mine – the occasional silent descent of tediousness and lassitude. If my classroom were a log in the woods, a casual observer might assume that all life had long ago left it. However, it’s good for me to remember the seemingly lifeless log spilling over with secret energies yesterday, because my students, even at their most sluggish, are part of the everlasting activity of the universe and are constantly engaged in mental and emotional pursuits. True, they are often not the pursuits I would wish for them to undertake during English class, but they are definitely pursuits -- the ceaseless quests that all of our minds and hearts engage in all of the time. My job, it seems to me, is not to “activate the thinking” of my students (to use a common pedagogical phrase), but perhaps to simply redirect it. The kids are constantly thinking and feeling, even under the lulling umbrella of sleepiness, and my only hope is to steer their thoughts and feelings in fresh directions. There are great comings and goings happening inside them while we’re in class; hopefully, I won’t pass mindlessly by and miss them.
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