On many mornings, as I drive to school I think about an astounding fact – that I have no idea what will happen at any given moment in my classes. Sure, I have my lesson plans, usually fairly tidy and comprehensive, but that’s simply a wise kind of guesswork, sort of like a meteorologist saying how the winds of a storm will swirl on a particular street. The truth is that countless varieties of events await my students and me at every second – situations, spoken words, wild ideas from far off, interruptions of the most far-fetched kinds – and my precious plans are no more to those events than a sieve is to rain drops. Emerson wrote that we should “mount to paradise/ By the stairway of surprise”, which tells me he would be happy with my English classes, where, in a sense, surprises happen every passing second. How, for instance, can my students and I possibly predict what thoughts will materialize in our minds in a 48 minute class? And how can we foretell what feelings we will have, or what words will pass among us like haphazard puffs of our minds? Perhaps, in fact, we do have a sort of paradise in my classroom, a place where surprise parties happen every day.
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