Friday, March 09, 2012


"Untitled", oil on linen, Barbara Kacicek
While I was doing some reading this morning, I occasionally re-read certain important passages, and it started me thinking about the value of repetition. It’s surprising how useful it can be to simply repeat something, especially if we are participating in a learning process of some sort. This morning I wanted to understand the significance of some sentences, so I just re-read them several times, and the more I repeated the reading, the better I understood. It’s almost a flawless formula: repetition makes for more and more mastery. After thinking about this for a few moments, I looked up the word “repeat” in a dictionary, and was surprised to discover that it derived from the Latin word for “strive after”. I also saw that the words “compete”, “appetite”, and “perpetual” stem from from the same root. So, when I repeat an activity in order to better learn or understand it, I am striving after understanding because I have a hunger, or appetite, for it. In a sense, I am perpetually competing with ignorance in order to defeat it, or perhaps I am competing with myself to see how much I can learn. It's certainly true that I compete with myself in order to become a better teacher, and perhaps I can use these insights about the effects of repetition in order to further my improvement. Perhaps I simply need to remember how important repetition is in any process.  Nature, of course, knows all about this wizardry of repetition. Sharp rocks become smooth stones over years by the steadily repeating flow of water, and soil for farming gets ever more fruitful by the persistent recurrence of decomposition.  It works in a similar way in English class. Whether we're studying a poem or understanding how to use a participle in paragraphs, repetition is always of service. Often the secret is as straightforward as this: Just repeat the action several times to bring about a startling amount of mastery.

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