Friday, December 10, 2010

Seeing Better with Bare Trees

A friend said today that she could see birds a lot better now that the trees are bare, and it started me wondering whether something similar should occasionally happen in my English classes. Perhaps complex plans and detailed objectives can sometimes act like the layers of leaves on summertime trees, layers that throw the inner limbs into shadows. Perhaps my meticulous preparation -- my many goals and hopes for each class -- can actually make it almost impossible for the students to see the substance of the lessons, like looking for birds in trees loaded with leaves. Now with the trees standing disrobed and showing only their silvery shirts of bark, it's easy to see the squirrels and birds going about their winter business. The entire inner world of the woods near my house is exposed in all its intricacy and simplicity, a universe I missed in the leaf-filled months. I wonder: could it be that my students see more in my lessons, and thus learn more, when the "trees" of my plans are fairly free of fine points and accessories? Maybe I should sometimes present lessons as stripped and stark as the now slim-armed maples near my house -- lessons that might make their points with the graceful simplicity of frosty trees.

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