Monday, September 27, 2010

Slow-Working Words

I occasionally think of my spoken words in class as small specks of yeast released into the dough of the students’ lives. It’s reassuring to think that at least some of my words might slowly sift their way through the students’ hearts and minds and make a small change in the way they think and feel. When I make a loaf of bread from time to time and see the lumpy dough slowly soften and spread and rise, I sometimes think of my students stretching out and transforming day by day, perhaps sometimes because of words said in English class. With my still wide-eyed optimism, I always hope at least a handful of my hundreds of words per class might cause a useful change in the students. Like a baker of bread, however, I must always practice patience. The dough takes almost three hours to gradually give way to the yeast’s reconstructing powers, and who knows how many hours, months, and even years it may take for a few spoken sentences of mine to take their soft effect? There’s no rushing in fine bread making, and a good teacher knows his words may need years to prove their worth to the inner lives of the students. Of course, most of my spoken words are probably lost forever, like yeast grains spilled in the sink and washed away. Still, I take consolation in the fact that far off in the future, a former student might suddenly understand something new about the nature of this life, partly because of a few slow-working words from a long-ago English teacher.

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