… like a gentle whispering
Of all the secrets of some wondrous thing
That breathes about us in the vacant air.
-- John Keats, “Sleep and Poetry”
I almost always feel “some wondrous thing” surrounding my students and me in the classroom, but it by no means implies that I am being a wondrous, or even tolerable, teacher. Even when I am stumbling through a totally bewildering and lackluster lesson, I can still sense something special working its way among us. Even if students are sitting like dazed prisoners, I can always feel the flowing of some shadowy force in our midst. This is no fanciful or surreal force, nothing that makes my classroom some kind of loftier place of learning than others, but simply the same shifting of thoughts and feelings that is found wherever there are people. It’s as if my students and I, in any English class, are standing or sitting on invisible tectonic plates made of endlessly active ideas and emotions, which are constantly sliding and colliding and sometimes crashing. What’s wondrous about this is that I have no reasonable idea where any of these ideas or emotions come from, or what patterns their shiftings and changings will follow. They’re like the weather -- always something disparate and surprising as the moments pass, always a fresh creation. It actually seems to have little to do with what the students or I choose to think or feel during class. It’s like the lift and pushing of plates beneath the earth’s surface – just something we live with and learn to better understand and appreciate, these wondrous movements of our inner lives in my little classroom.
(audio version below)