Tuesday, April 19, 2011


"Country Road", oil, by Liza Hirst
I love riding on smooth interstate highways, as I do in my daily drives to school, but I also take pleasure in pounding my way over bumpy backwoods roads – and I see some similar differences in my approaches to teaching. Often I find it helpful to set out a smooth road for the students as they travel through an assignment – a sort of interstate highway of requirements, guidelines, directions, and steps. After all, if I really want them to reach a certain destination, providing a fitting, trouble-free path would make sense. However, I also, now and then, purposely throw down a shabby side road for them to follow -- an assignment littered with potholed directions and puzzling detours. It’s a chance for a different kind of success for the students – an opportunity to take a rough and rutted road and turn the trip into a triumph. On these assignments, I feel the coarser and more mystifying the assignment, the better the chance for finding wisdom. I like to see the students sweating their way through a seemingly impassable assignment now and then, for I’ve learned what happens when, at the end, they come through with celebratory looks on their faces. Happiness in English class can come from smooth traveling, but also from a little rough-country pioneering.

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