When I ask students to write an essay during a single class period, I usually say something like, “You’re on your own on this one” – but actually, the truth is they’re always on their own. Whatever assignments they’re working on, whatever poems or passages from novels they’re thinking their way through, they’re doing it on their own – shining their own mental lights as they look for the truth. Of course, they occasionally receive assistance from classmates and from me, but essentially the students stand separately on their own personal mental planets, probing the words of the books we read the way astronomers probe the widespread stars. This, one might say, is a disheartening way to think of young English students -- as lonesome readers struggling in solitude -- but in one sense it’s a cheering and inspiring picture. I see in my mind my students, each standing separate and somewhat awestruck while the words of great writers shoot and soar around them like countless stars. There’s something to be said for just plain awe, even – maybe especially -- when you’re totally on your own.