Thursday, October 07, 2010

What Will They Remember?

This morning I found myself remembering the wonderful stories of Sherwood Anderson, and it soon started me wondering what my students will remember about my classes. I must confess that the words “very little” were the first that came to mind, but then I realized, to my surprise, that I actually remember very little about the Anderson stories. What I remember is the atmosphere of those stories, or what I might call the aura. Thinking back, I feel again the simplicity and sincerity I felt when I first read the stories – the sense of everyday lives described in a skillfully straightforward and seemingly effortless way. I honestly can’t recall a single scene or character from the stories – just the aura, the atmosphere, the soft and earnest shine that seemed to rise from the sentences. I guess I wouldn’t be disappointed if the students recalled my classes that way -- not because they learned how to read Robert Frost or use commas correctly, but because a certain impression of kindness and openness and slowly-increasing understanding seemed to suffuse the classes. I hope the students gain some specific knowledge that will help them in their future school years, but more importantly, I hope they gain a certain new impression about books and words and writing – a fresh feeling for their possibilities, an awareness of the wisdom available inside them. Years from now, when former students are asked what they recall about Mr. Salsich’s class, I would hope they might respond with words like “quiet” or “peaceful” or “fulfilling”. Whether they remember writing with participles or the poetry of Frost fades away in comparison.

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