Wednesday, March 14, 2012


“I’ll smoothly steer
My little boat, for many quiet hours,
With streams that deepen freshly into bowers.”
     -- John Keats, “Endymion”

"Petersham Pond", oil, by Nel Jansen
     I like the fact that Keats sees the boat of his poetry as sailing in streams that always, in due course, “deepen freshly into bowers”, and I see my teaching in much the same way. There’s a confidence, a coolness and buoyancy, in Keats’ words, as if he is absolutely certain that all will be well with whatever he writes, and I feel similarly self-assured. I don’t mean that I know I will be a winning teacher every day – just that I know that nothing will happen in my classes that won’t somehow cause learning to be let loose among us. Like Keats when he’s writing, I feel myself sailing somewhere special in every class, even when the waters seem strange and stormy. I’m not so much a teacher as a fellow passenger in a ship that always brings my students and me to curious destinations, some that I planned for and some that surge up out of somewhere mysterious as I’m teaching. There’s always depth in even the most lackluster classes – always some “bowers”, if we can see them, where the learning is as large and uplifting as we could wish. Like the poet, we simply have to put our trust in the ship of our minds and hearts, sit back, and see what waits ahead.

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