As a boy, I always enjoyed watching a stream slowly settle after being stirred up, and I feel fortunate that I can see the same kind of settling almost every day in the classroom. It’s accurate, I think, to compare my teenage students coming down the hall for class to a forest stream surging along in its sprawling way. Between classes, the kids are a liberated group, blessed with undisciplined thoughts and free feelings, and flowing along with all their force and liveliness. It’s as if something stirs their lives for a few minutes after each class, and, like an unsettled stream, they flow down the hall to their next class. Actually, I like the unsettled nature of their young lives, in much the same way that I like the look of a swiftly flowing stream. One never knows what a hurrying stream will do next, which is part of its poetry, and likewise, I enjoy the persistent unpredictability of my students. I would never want them to be a thoroughly settled group, sinking into a tedious sameness. However, part of my responsibility to them is to insist that they sort themselves out without much delay and set about the business of being serious students of English for forty-eight minutes. I set up a routine at the start of the year that enables them to do this fairly efficiently, and they usually subside, within a few minutes, into a quietly industrious group of scholars. It’s like seeing a stream in the woods of Missouri, way back then, slowly bring itself into peacefulness after being stirred up by a meddlesome boy.
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