Monday, December 27, 2010


“… [w]ith grave
Aspect he rose, and in his rising seemed
A pillar of state. Deep on his front engraven
Deliberation sat, and public care;
And princely counsel in his face yet shone,
Majestic, though in ruin. Sage he stood
With Atlantean shoulders, fit to bear
The weight of mightiest monarchies; his look
Drew audience and attention still as night
Or summer's noontide air.”
-- Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 2

When I read these lines the other day, it struck me, strange as it may seem, that Beelzebub would be a fine role model for my teaching. It seems to me that he presented himself to his fellow devils very much the way I hope to present myself to my adolescent students. His “grave aspect” I take to mean simply a focused expression, as though, like any earnest teacher, he wanted his listeners to know he took his responsibility seriously. He seemed as strong and sturdy as a “pillar”, which, in our capricious and frenzied times, is precisely the kind of teacher teenagers need. I also like the fact that “deliberation sat” upon him, because a good teacher surely needs to be a thoughtful one, an insightful and purposeful one, a teacher who knows that victorious lessons flow only from painstaking preparation. Beelzebub’s “princely counsel” can be understood as the guidance and advice a serious teacher tries to have always ready, the “princely” part perhaps referring to the almost “majestic” atmosphere that an honestly sympathetic teacher seems to surround his students with. I especially like the power of just “his look”. As I work with my students in the classroom, I hope that, amid the occasional silliness and lightheartedness, simply my look of earnestness and resolve can create a silent steadiness among my students, the kind we might sense in the air on special summer days.

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