“She wanted the largeness of the world to help her thought.”
-- George Eliot, in Felix Holt, The Radical
When Esther Lyon is struggling to make an important decision and stares out at the sky and stars for help, it strikes me as exactly the feeling I often have as I search for help in making the small but special daily decisions about my English classes. More and more as the years pass, I see myself as a minuscule ship in an endless ocean called learning and teaching, with the hesitant captain (me) always on deck calling into the darkness for assistance. I make dozens of decisions each day as I do my classroom work, of which a fair share seem to produce suitable results, but I often have the strong sense of a vast world of ideas out there that could shine down useful lights on the decision-making process. It’s like I’m using a teensy flashlight to make my choices, when all-powerful floodlights are always available. In the novel, George Eliot captures this feeling so well as Esther searches the heavens for inspiration. I’ve done something similar as I’ve driven my 40 miles to and from school each day, seeking ideas for lesson plans in the look of peaceful fields and in the way leaves (these days) lift and fall in their easy ways along the roads. As I speed along in my small car, the wide world seems immeasurable -- without end and uncharted and chock-full of wisdom. It seems impossible, each morning and evening, that this boundless universe I’m moving through wouldn’t wish me well with a few fine ideas for lessons – and, luckily, it sometimes does. There have been days when a thought threw itself into my car as though from the distant stretch of trees or the never-stopping sky. On other days an idea for a lesson seemed to light itself up in the passenger seat beside me, as if to be sure I would notice. I understand Esther as she stands at the dark window and waits for help from “the largeness of the world”, and I also understand her quiet confidence that help will come.