Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Seeing the Stones

The other day, driving to school among the fall fields and woods, I noticed a small section of a stone fence I’d never seen before, and it amazed me rather the way I was amazed, this morning, by the new things I saw in To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve taught the novel for many years, so you might assume that I’ve already noticed all there is to notice, but this morning I saw, as though for the first time, some qualities of Miss Maudie Atkinson I had apparently missed in earlier readings. I shared my surprise with my students: How can a long-time reader – an English teacher, no less – miss so many details in a book on numerous readings? Are my reading skills so unsharpened that small details effortlessly dart past me? Quite honestly, the answer is probably yes, and it seems like a gift given to me to be able to say that – to be able to admit that a well-seasoned senior citizen teacher still has tons to learn about serious reading. This was a humbling lesson for me, but a helpful one too – this finding out how far I have to go to as a skillful reader. It helps me hold in mind the most important truth about pinpoint, polished reading – that it’s a major mountain whose summit is still somewhere out of my sight.

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