Saturday, July 23, 2011


"Resting in South Pasture", oil, by Debra Sisson
Strange as it sounds, I sometimes think my main job as an English teacher is to help my students discover how to return, and how to rest. Returning and rest, in a sense, are the keys to learning anything, for it is only by returning, again and again, to the subject matter that we make it a part of ourselves, and only by resting in the center of each new understanding do we discover its true depth and breadth. Returning and rest is the opposite of restlessness and bustle: by quietly returning to a poem again and again and resting, without mental struggle or anxiety, in its various meanings, the student settles the mind and meets with fresh intuitions. Dashing ahead with never a glance back or a breather is the way of reckless students, whereas constantly coming back again and taking a break inside a topic or concept creates students who save what they learn for years to come. Realizing this, I sometimes stop my students in their tracks. I say, “Let’s reread this page, slowly and with special treatment. Lets rest for a few moments inside the meaning of the words.” They usually sigh and seem to be saying, “Oh god, can’t we please just move on?”, but my task is a simple and special one – to show the students the power and pleasure of revisiting and taking a respite among good words.

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