Saturday, February 26, 2011


"Country Road", oil on canvas by V...Vaughn
I often find myself behind a school bus on my way to school, and almost always I eventually feel grateful for it, for it reminds me of an essential truth about teaching and learning. Usually I’m a fretful, even frantic driver in the morning, believing, for some reason, that some kind of desperate driving is needed to get my day started efficiently, but falling in behind a big bus gradually transforms the frenzy to a pleasant kind of patience. The bus lollygags along, stopping for students now and then, and slowly my thoughts slow down to a fairly undisturbed walk. Little by little, I begin to actually take pleasure in the passing morning scenery, and speed seems pointless. In my classroom speed seems equally pointless, whether it’s dashing through books, or breaking records for most essays assigned in a year, or forcing five topics into a lesson instead of a reasonable one or two. I occasionally get caught up in the race to cover crazy amounts of material in class, and the school bus scenario in the morning makes its easy to see the insanity of rushing anywhere, and the simple good sense of living -- and teaching English -- slowly. The sentences in the great books we read in class were written slowly, and only the slowness of a serious reader can sense the wisdom the writer set down in them. Since truth takes lots of time to take shape, and since it usually takes lots of time to see and understand it, my goal in English class is to stay in front of the students -- an old, slow-thinking bus of a teacher -- so slowness, and real learning, might happen.

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