“… Who overcomes
By force hath overcome but half his foe.”
-- John Milton, Paradise Lost
It annoys me to have to admit that I have often fallen victim to the “victory by force” theory of teaching, because in my heart I know that gentleness is far more powerful than mere force. The gentleness I speak of is the gentleness of rivers that simply stay steady in their course, no matter what obstacles present themselves, or the gentleness of lakes that let all leaves land on them with effortlessness, or the gentleness of grass that forever gives way for the soles of our shoes. In a baffling kind of way, this gentleness wins by seemingly losing, and gets what it desires by willingly giving. In my time in the classroom, I have sometimes shoved and pushed and dragged students to my various finish lines, as though sheer force was some kind of creative power, but I usually know better. The sun warms us on spring days in the softest way, and I guess that’s the way I want to teach. I can harass my students into learning, or I can bring them to it by being as soft as sunshine that noiselessly brightens miles of hills.
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