Sunday, October 10, 2010

Trusting Simplicity

“The expression of trusting simplicity in Marner's face, heightened by that absence of special observation, that defenceless, deer-like gaze …”
-- George Eliot, in Silas Marner

I guess the “trusting simplicity” I sometimes see in my students’ faces is what I love almost best about teaching – and I wish I could reclaim more of it for myself. I love the ease with which the students seem to think – the way thoughts apparently pop up inside them like bubbles in a brook, and the way the kids often have full faith in them. My so-called “mature” mind is so conditioned to pass judgment on every thought, that I’m almost powerless to welcome ideas as they display themselves by the thousands inside me, but my students share the trusting assurance of Silas Marner. They seem to sense that thoughts – any thoughts – have unusual powers and should at least be received and appreciated, if not listened to and worshipped. Marner’s strength, perhaps, was the “absence of special observation”, and I see the same quality in my young scholars. They often come to class with “deer-like gaze[s]”, seemingly seeing English class as an utter mystery, like a light in their eyes in darkness – but there’s an adolescent acceptance in those eyes that can make for a large measure of learning. Because they’re not looking for anything in particular, it may be that they can see the surprising and special truths that sometimes start up in class like the smallest froths in a stream – truths that I, with my constantly critical mind, might miss.

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