“Thou art a summer bird,
Which ever in the haunch of winter sings
The lifting up of day.”
-- Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2
No doubt there’s considerable darkness in the lives of my young students – mostly the darkness that comes of being teenagers at a somewhat frenzied and comfortless time in history – and perhaps part of my task as a teacher is to bring “the lifting up of day” for 48 minutes. Of course, my main responsibility is to share my insights about English literature and language, but along with these technical matters might come some useful truths for the students about how to live quieter and brighter lives. Perhaps in showing them the wisdom in poems and stories I could create a little more light for these kids who so often seem lost in an easygoing but steady sort of darkness. It would not be a small victory to make the days of 37 teenagers turn a little clearer and happier, and I could do it so easily. A smile, even, could set a student off on a luckier road for the rest of the day. A few nods toward a student when she’s sharing her thoughts with the class could carry blessings as bright as sunshine, and a sincere statement of praise could, for a few moments, bring a boy what a sunny day sometimes brings. I like to let the students in on some of the secrets of fine reading and writing, but perhaps I can also, in doing so, drop some soothing light into whatever large or small darkness they might be experiencing as they’re sitting in English class.