Saturday, April 16, 2011


"Spring Comes to the Shoreline" (Waterford, CT beach), oil, by Roxanne Steed
It’s strange to me that I think of boxes more than wiggles when I’m teaching. What I mean is, my classroom goals seem more to do with making sure everything fits smartly into a box of some sort than with insuring that students’ minds move with variableness and freedom. A wiggle can work in a million different ways, which is the way students’ minds actually work, but when I’m teaching, I seem to try to tame those wiggles and set them into suitable boxes. There are grammar boxes, paragraph boxes, essay boxes, and the countless literary terminology boxes – all waiting to be packed with the students twisting and squirming thoughts. What’s odd about this is that reality actually works in wiggles, never in boxes. Our thoughts shake and shimmy and disappear as fast as they appear, and putting a thought into a box is about as doable as putting a piece of the wind in our pocket. And of course nature, with her constantly shifting patterns and movements, makes no boxes, no convenient containers, but comes and goes with the variableness of flowing water. Certainly I realize that I have a responsibility to train my students to live effectively in this boxy, container-crazy, label-loving culture they are part of, but at the same time I can encourage them to enjoy the underlying capriciousness and evanescence of their lives. I can say, “Put your sentences into boxes, but brighten the boxes with your individual flamboyance. Do my assignments within the box of the requirements, but wiggle and bend those requirements almost to breaking. Be controlled, but make it the freest, most imaginative control possible.”

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