“So service shall with steeled sinews toil,
And labour shall refresh itself with hope.”
Shakespeare, Henry V
When I’m toiling along in a lesson, say, on commas in compound sentences, I need “steeled sinews”, and it would sure help if hope was refreshing me. My classroom labor is not the exhausting work of weightlifters or world-class runners, but there does sometimes seem to be no end to the tiring challenges of teaching teenagers English. Since I sometimes seem to be sweating in a gym when I’m showing the students the particulars of good writing, the muscles of my teaching have to be hardened – steeled, as Shakespeare says. Surely gentleness should play a part in my teaching, but I hope the sinews of my gentleness are stout and hard-wearing, for then the work will be constantly recharged with hope. If that were the case, I might grow weary when I’m working through a chapter in Dickens with the students, but the weariness, surprisingly, would be silently producing strength and confidence. The more fatigued I became, the better I would teach, for buoyancy and coolness would be created by the very exhaustion I was feeling. Teaching, then, would be like being a fountain, in which water is always falling, but precisely because it falls, it seems to rise higher and higher.