Wednesday, January 05, 2011


I am not a churchgoer, but when a friend recently told me that in one of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians he describes unleavened bread as the bread of sincerity whereas leavened bread is puffed up with nothing but “hot air”, I immediately decided I want to teach like unleavened bread. In Paul’s notion, this is bread that is simple, unfussy, uninterested in being showy, only seeking to share some honest nourishment – and this sounds a little like me in my modest classroom. Unleavened bread, as I understand it, has a fairly flat and uninteresting appearance, unlike the full-to-bursting bread that’s been transformed by yeast, and I’m sure I make a far less dazzling impression on my students than the younger teachers with their unblemished youthfulness and effervescent personalities. I don’t mean to suggest that these younger teachers are insincere, just that I’m not good at teaching by dazzling and astonishing. Like unleavened bread, I simply offer what I have, which is merely an abiding love for writing and reading. No doubt some of my students find my classes boring, just as eating flat, unleavened bread, I would suppose, is a fairly unexciting activity. However, bread, it seems to me, is primarily for the purposes of nourishment, not excitement, and my English classes are meant mostly to teach lessons, not to astonish or startle or stun. True, every so often I feel a little “leaven” inside me and I come to class puffed up and golden with great ideas for fancy, “engaging” activities, but they almost always deflate and flop fairly quickly, and I fall back to just being a simple 69-year-old teacher who loves talking passionately about written words. I’m sure my classes are sometimes as flat as unrisen bread, but still, I guess there’s as much nourishment in simpleness as in showiness.

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