Tuesday, September 14, 2010


On my early-morning 50-minute drive to school today, I gave more than usual attention to the slow but sure increase of daylight – the gradual gift of another day – and because of this, on impulse I decided to adjust my lesson plans for the day, with a revised focus on the importance of gradualness in the study of English. It was, indeed, a beautiful beginning to the day, mostly because of the almost imperceptible way in which it occurred, and I talked to the students about the fact that understanding often begins in just such a slight and hardly noticeable way. They often want to tussle and brawl with the books we read, as if comprehension comes through the use of haste and force, but I asked them today to try another technique, something like the restful way of this morning’s sunrise. Could they, I asked, think of understanding as something that usually shows up in our lives slowly, like sunshine lighting up an interstate little by little? Could they talk themselves into good-naturedly waiting for knowledge the way they’re content, I would imagine, to wait for the sunlight to stretch out across their lives each day? We often read books in class that are full of a miraculous kind of obscurity, and you can’t force clarity into those kinds of books. There’s light inside the pages, for sure, but it only rises and shines on us when we’re willing to wait and let the words slowly glow in their faint and gradual way.

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