I insist on order and decorum in my classroom, but I also insist on a certain type of looseness. It sounds incongruous, I know, but looseness seems to me to be closely connected with, and a cause of, the kind of shipshape and distinguished success I aim for with my students. I want the students to be serious and focused, but also lighthearted and slightly unruly, at least in their hearts and minds. There needs to be an even mixture of earnestness and giddiness if any appealing essays are to be written, or any singular visions about books are to be brought to birth. I want my students, I guess, to feel relaxed in my class – not feet-up-on-the-table relaxed, but the kind of I-can-do-anything-with-my-mind relaxation that liberates thoughts and feelings like so many sparrows in the sky. I believe students can sit up straight in class, speak with civility, and carry themselves with decorum, and still feel free and comfortable. In fact, the freer they feel, the more poise and pride they seem to show. Maybe it’s like the winds, which, when they soar around in the loosest manner, rather like undisciplined teenagers, also present their most solemn powers.
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