Monday, October 31, 2011


Snowed in by a bizarre October storm on Saturday, I spent some time looking around in the dictionary, and when the word “opportune” appeared before me, I soon realized that the crazy storm was, in fact, an opportune one for me as a teacher, for it helped me understand that opportunities parade before my students and me with the steadiness of the snowflakes that were falling around the house. Actually, according to the dictionary, everything offers an opportunity, for everything provides a path home to some harbor or other. The dictionary says that “opportune” derives from the Latin word for “port”, and that originally, an opportune moment was simply a moment that made it easier for a ship to steer its way toward its port. In English class, we care about only one port – learning -- and letting the moments of my classes take my students and me home to that port is my only proper task. What I remembered on Saturday, through my dictionary work, is that every moment of class can carry us a little closer to the docks where wisdom waits. Just as a seaworthy sailor knows that all winds, one way or another, can be used to steer the ship in the chosen course, I should know that whatever works its way into my classes can carry us to some type of fruitful learning. Teachable moments, to tell the truth, are every moment – or should be. If a boy brings his own boredom into the room, I can, perhaps, discreetly use it to help him see how boredom breaks apart a character’s life in some short story, or how boredom suddenly becomes passion in a certain poem. Similarly, if we turn off the track of my carefully considered lesson plan, which sometimes happens, maybe the new path can provide learning I had never looked for. This screwy and astonishing snowstorm before Halloween holed me up in the house on Saturday, helping me get some past-due writing done, so it actually was a sudden and opportune gift from the gods of the weather, and my task as a teacher is to be forever ready for the opportunities given by the gods of Room 2 – the continuous gifts that get my students and me closer to any one of the limitless harbors in the land of learning.

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