Monday, January 02, 2012


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“Nothing startles me beyond the Moment. The setting sun will always set me to rights—or if a Sparrow come before my Window I take part in its existence and pick about the Gravel.”
-- John Keats, in a letter to Benjamin Bailey

Every so often, something startles me in English class, and it is usually nothing more spectacular than the soft look of a student’s expression, or the shine the sunlight places on someone’s shirt, or –occasionally – a “sparrow […] before [the] window” working to get some food at the feeder. Like Keats, almost “nothing startles me beyond the [m]oment” – beyond the commonplace happenings that life lets us come across moment by moment. I make big plans for each class, hoping, I guess, to be given great rewards in the form of energized students and a satisfied self-image, but most often the rewards come in modest, usually disregarded forms – a fervent look from a girl, the song of a boy’s voice, a sudden wind beside the windows. I even pause, now and then, to admire the birds at the feeder just outside the classroom – even in the midst of a convoluted lesson. I find the birds startling, sometimes, and so I take the time to “take part in [their] existence”. It’s just a few seconds of silent appreciation, and I’m convinced it helps me make my lesson, as I return to it, a little less wearisome and perhaps a little more startling.

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