Thursday, January 20, 2011


"Lighthouse Sun after Storm", pastel, by Nancy Poucher
As an English teacher, I’m not especially interested in things related to speed – how fast the students can write, how swiftly we can complete a lesson, how rapidly they can reach the heart of a poem – but, in some ways, speed actually does play its interesting part in our work. There are countless times, for instance, when a student suddenly, within seconds, goes from complete bafflement to a kind of astonishing wisdom about a passage we are studying. One moment the student says “Huh?” to every question about the passage, and the next moment his face sends forth a shine that says, “Aha!” When this happens, I sometimes think of a microwave: one moment my coffee is completely cold, and not many moments later it makes its special steam as I hold it. Instant heat, and, for the student, instant understanding. It happens sometimes in writing, too. A student can be bent in bewilderment over a paragraph, finding nothing respectable in the sentences, when suddenly, by replacing a single word or reshuffling one phrase, the whole piece seems proper and even stylish. It’s the microwave effect: total transformation with the swiftness of sunshine breaking through after a day of darkness


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