Sunday, September 05, 2010


Oil painting by Heidi Malott
I stopped yesterday to watch some cows quietly grazing in a pasture, and before long it occurred to me that my students and I will be giving some time to a sort of peaceable grazing during this school year. It’s perhaps not too far-fetched to think of a book like A Tale of Two Cities as a pasture of sorts – an expansive and plenteous region where readers can forage for whatever delights they like to look for in books. Of course, to the students the book may sometimes seem more like a mountain than a grazing land (and occasionally climbing literary peaks is an essential academic task), but this year I will try to find places in the book where my youthful readers can follow their hearts in search of whatever satisfies them in books. After finishing a chapter, I may ask them to take twenty minutes to “graze” back over the sentences to see what refreshments they might have missed. Even if they understood little on the first reading, some light and pleasurable browsing might enable them to take something wholesome away from the chapter. I, too, hope to do some laid-back grazing, especially as I’m preparing lessons – looking around in books and articles, perusing through old lessons, and generally browsing among the myriad ideas available to me and all English teachers. Some teachers think of planning lessons as hard work, but I try to see it as a positive exercise in rummaging. I’ve never been sure that I actually “make” my lesson plans; it seems more likely that they lie around my life like food for my work, waiting to be found and put to good use. I casually browse each day and almost always discover what I need to know for a good day’s employment among teenage English scholars.

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