Friday, November 12, 2010

Leaving the Door Open

“Yes – the door was open. The money’s gone I don’t know where, and this is come from I don’t know where.”
-- from George Eliot’s Silas Marner

I sometimes think of these words of Silas when a dreadful day of teaching is followed by a miraculous one. I try to leave the door of my mind wide open as I’m planning my lessons, letting in all possible ideas and allowing them to linger long enough to evaluate their usefulness, but that kind of openness contains a risk. On many occasions a perfectly foolish idea for a lesson has persuaded me of its value, and the result has almost invariably been catastrophic. True, many wonderful ideas for lessons have made their way through the open door of my mind, but now and then a thoroughly silly plan has managed to make itself seem worthwhile, at least long enough to demolish a day’s teaching. What’s strange, though, is that, on more occasions than I can count, a truly incredible and useful idea comes to me that very night, and the next day’s lessons is like lightning in its brightness and liveliness. One day disaster, next day nothing but triumph – and I have no idea where either one came from. Silas Marner would understand what I’m talking about. He customarily leaves the door of his hut open, and one day a robber walks in and promptly walks out again with his carefully stored savings, but, oddly enough, not many days later a golden-haired orphan named Eppie comes like a gift to Silas through the same open door. One day, “the money’s gone”; another day, a little treasure takes his hand in hers. My favorite words in the quote are “I don’t know where”, because, like Silas, I truly don’t know where my fiascos and conquests come from. One day my lesson lies down and dies, next day it shines like summer – and who can say why?

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