I underwent a minor surgical procedure yesterday, and interestingly, it seemed a lot like English class. No, I don’t put people to sleep in class (well, not completely), and we don’t use scopes and scalpels in my classes, but still, there’s a strange association between what we do in Room 2 at my school and what happened to me at Westerly Hospital yesterday morning. As I lay in the recovery room, I reflected on the similarities between the small assembly of nurses, doctors, and a 70-year-old patient in the surgical ward, and the team of adolescent scholars and a senior citizen teacher who gather together each day in a small classroom in Connecticut. There was tension, distress, kindness, and courage at the hospital, just as there is in all my classes. I felt some fear as I waited for my appointed time with the surgical team, and in a way, my students might see my classes as disquieting and even scary, but I hope they also sense the compassion and bravery that we each bring to the class, just as I felt the full power of simple thoughtfulness as I lay on the stretcher. Yesterday the nurses’ and doctors’ kindness carried me along, from my early morning admission to when I was rolled out in a wheelchair to a friend’s car, and I see the same kind of kindness among my students as they assist each other through the fears and unease that some of my lessons and assignments cause. Surgery, of course, is usually a far more fearsome and awe-inspiring experience than a 9th grade English class, but the comparison still seems reasonable, especially when I think of the selfless compassion and understanding I felt at the hospital, and the sympathy my young students show to each other as they suffer through the sometimes unsettling trials of English class.
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