Saturday, October 02, 2010

Warm Once Again

After spending this morning outside in the chilly air watching my granddaughter’s soccer match, I was comforted to be warm once again inside my car, and it reminded me of the feeling I hope my students have, over and over again, when they gain the comfort of at least a small amount of understanding after being “out in the cold” of a baffling book like a A Tale of Two Cities. Actually, it occurred to me, as I was driving away from the field and finding comfort in the car’s warmth, that I should be grateful to the almost frosty air at the field, because without it, I would not have been able to take pleasure in the comparative coziness of the car. First there was ninety minutes of cold, and, then precisely because of it, there was the pure pleasure of warmth. The truth is that if I was always contentedly warm, day after day and year after year, warmth would be thoroughly unexciting, and I’ve known for a long time that a similar odd truth holds in English class. I purposely put my students in seriously disagreeable literary situations – in the frosty regions, you might say, of bewildering books and poems – specifically so they can enjoy the warmth won by persistent and painstaking reading. Like me this morning, if the students don’t suffer some discomfort, where’s the use and blessing of comfort?

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