Monday, March 28, 2011


I recall my mother occasionally telling me, with her usual kindhearted decisiveness, to just “stay put” (usually when I wanted to dash from the dinner table), and it sometimes occurs to me that this would be excellent advice for my young students in English class. This is very much a rushing generation I’m dealing with, a group of students whose lives are leaping along at staggering speeds, and so “staying put” is not an easy assignment for them. They want to sprint through books and assignments as if they’re running races – as if finishing whatever they’re doing is all that’s important, never mind whether it was an elevating or mind-numbing experience. It’s all I can do to keep them centered on a single page or on a single line of a poem, just “staying put” so the thoughts in the written words can come clearly across to them. They resist my reins, wanting the next page, the next line, the next whatever. “What’s next?”, in fact, might be the question that comes to them most often. Just today I gave out a packet of poems, and as soon as I read the first one aloud, I saw pages swiftly turning to the next one. Thinking of my mother, I said, in her gracious but resolute manner, “Let’s just stay put. Let’s let these words work on us.” There was some squirming in the seats as the kids thought about “what’s next”, but there was also, I like to think, some silent soaking-up of feelings waiting in the words.

No comments: