Sunday, November 21, 2010

Stilling the Wild Winds

“… a Swain,
That to the service of this house belongs,
Who with his soft Pipe, and smooth-dittied Song,
Well knows to still the wilde winds when they roar,
And hush the waving Woods”
--- John Milton, Comus: A Mask

When I read this passage this morning, it seemed to be describing the type of teacher I try to be. I don’t play a “pipe” and my singing is the opposite of smooth, but I do consider one of my main responsibilities to be “stilling” – not “wilde winds”, but the swirling, swarming minds and hearts of my teenage students. I always hope to have a peaceful class, one in which the “waving woods” of my students’ inner lives can be hushed to some extent. Not much literature can touch the lives of kids who can’t escape their own spinning thoughts and feelings, so, from the moment the students enter the classroom, an atmosphere of ease and orderliness is maintained. I guess my usually subdued voice takes the place of the “soft Pipe” of the poet, and perhaps my insistence on respect and kindness at all times works like a song to settle the kids down. With a little luck, this kind of easygoing atmosphere leads to some lighthearted but stirring work by the students and me.

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