Monday, January 31, 2011


I require my students to sit up fairly straight in class, as a way of encouraging a dignified approach to their English studies, and I expect them to write with a similar kind of poise. It has to do, I think, with self-esteem. If the students sit in my class, day after day, in a dignified manner, there’s a reasonable chance that they will slowly start to think of themselves as dignified people – as young adults blessed with the gift of graciousness, maybe even gallantry. To me, slouching in class looks too much like diffidence and faint-heartedness, two traits my students can use less of, and perhaps sitting tall (like standing tall) will show them the way to a stronger sense of confidence and self-assurance. Not surpisingly, I make them write the way they sit, with strength and orderliness and dignity. The essays they compose in my class must read, in the end, like the disciplined, carefully-crafted thoughts of people who are proud of their disciplined, carefully-crafted thoughts. No ranting or rambling or wandering is allowed in the essays my students write; they sit up in class, and they have to “write up” as well – write sentences that stand on the page like the announcements of ideas that mean business. Does this leave no room for suppleness or whimsy or just plain joy, either in sitting or writing? On the contrary, students who sit in English class with a sense of honor and self-assurance, and write essays in the same spirit, are more likely to have flights of boldness and beauty in their writing than those who slump down in their seats and in their writing. It takes poise and bravery to write with strength, and I’d like visitors to my room to see poised and brave kids who care enough about their education to sit up in class.

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