A dictionary doesn’t give much help in understanding what it means to say that something unfolds, but I’m sure I will see one indisputable meaning of the word each day in English class this year. As has happened so often in the past, most of the students will surely come to my classroom, more often than not, with minds folded up and shut away somewhere – thoughts and dreams and wonderings and hunches all tucked together and out of sight. It’s as if they don’t trust school to be a place where their most prized thoughts will be appreciated, so they cuddle them close and carry on as dutiful students without them. They sit in my room and smile and make insightful statements, but the real treasure of their thinking and feeling lives is folded away inside them. Luckily, though, there’s something about English class – not the perfectly ordinary teacher, for heaven’s sake, but simply the material at hand -- that always brings about some slow but sure unfoldment. Is there a classic short story that doesn’t have at least one sentence that will unroll some portion of a student’s heart? Will a carefully selected poem not always prompt at least a little straightening out of the tangles in a teenager’s thoughts? Can kids write paragraphs about a powerful feeling they have and not sense some small unfurling inside? I’ll be watching all year for this unfoldment – this almost irresistible tendency for feelings and thoughts to open out when wholehearted words are written or read.
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