Thursday, September 23, 2010


This morning I fell into thinking about all the “things” I had to do in class today, but fortunately I remembered that English class doesn’t deal with things, but with thoughts. As I prepare my lessons, it seems odd that I often picture myself manipulating “things”, as though teaching English is no more problematical than pulling and pushing furniture to different places in a room, or setting out stones on a garden path. It’s as if I believe that simply by assembling certain “things” (goals, objectives, methods, etc) in the right arrangements, learning will inevitably happen. What I remembered this morning was that teaching is far more like charting the cosmos than arranging “things”, far more like seizing the wind than organizing steps in a lesson. We English teachers deal with words and ideas, which are as different from tangible, maneuverable “things” as clouds are from concrete. Yes, I have to carefully prepare my lessons each day, but that’s sort of like a pilot preparing to fly. In due course he has to place himself in the hands of the vast and capricious winds, and each day I must put myself, with all my carefully composed plans, in the hands, not of “things”, but of evanescent and boundless words and ideas.

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