Tuesday, November 30, 2010


“In the beginning was the word” is a Bible phrase that’s always seemed strangely associated with my duties as an English teacher. Words stand at the very beginning of all things in my classes. All lessons, exercises, readings, writings, quizzes, tests – all discussions, debates, arguments, speeches, lectures, comments, and remarks start with the force of a few words. Even the thousands of thoughts that arise among us during a 48-minute class are constructed with the words we know, as buildings are built with boards and stones and steel. It’s as if words are an invisible power present in the classroom, a power that ignites thoughts and carries conversations and assembles interpretations – a power that stands ready at the starting line of everything we do. In fact, it has always seemed to me – and I often share this with my students – that students and teachers of English do business with the strongest force in the universe. All wars start with words, as do all friendships, quests, transformations, and triumphs. A world without words is a garden without daylight, a seed without soil. I’m grateful that I find myself, having just turned 69, still surrounded in the classroom by the everlasting liveliness of words.

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