Sunday, July 24, 2011


When I think about it, I realize that I taught for many years with the notion that there was basically one way to do just about anything in the classroom, but now, after four decades of teaching, it’s clear to me that, on the contrary, there are an infinite number of ways, and all just about equally effective. I sometimes think of sunshine, and how it spreads its light in countless patterns across the earth, all of them special and handsome in their distinctive ways – and can’t we say that all sincere approaches to understanding a short story are, in surprising and perhaps hidden ways, equally wise? Or the rain as it falls in numberless rhythms and speeds: is it more beautiful at one moment than the next, and is one student’s halting but honest attempt at an essay assignment less inspiring than a whiz kid’s creative masterpiece? I guess what I’m saying is that all students who try their best build a kind of masterpiece of one sort or another, and I need to stay alert to the curious and sometimes strange splendor of their work. To me, the way of the natural straight-A student is no more magnificent than that of the dutiful but stumbling C student. There are a zillion kinds of success and a zillion ways to get there, which is precisely what makes living – and teaching – such an adventure.

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