Saturday, August 11, 2012


     When I was a boy, there was a church near our house called The Church of the Open Door, and I recalled it recently when I was working in my classroom preparing for the coming year. Both doors to my room were wide open, with breezes and occasional voices coming in, and, for some reason, the church back in my childhood came to mind. With those open doors on that recent summer morning, my classroom felt unfenced and free, fully accessible and unrestricted, and perhaps that was why the church chose that name. Perhaps they wanted people to know they would find freedom inside the church, a chance to choose whatever thoughts they wished, whatever feelings flowed into them.  Perhaps they wished their church to be a place of welcome and cordiality instead of constraint and strictness. As I puttered around the classroom, sorting things out for September, I thought of the freedom I want the students to feel when they walk through my open doors – the freedom to find their own special truths, their own singular responses to literature, their own uncommon voices in their written words and sentences. I don’t want them to see works of literature as tamper-proof treasures accessible only to serious, unsmiling scholars, but as vast worlds with no walls and no required PINs or passwords.  My classroom, I hope, will hold its arms out like an openhearted companion, calling to the kids to come in and discover the best wisdom for each of them.  There will be rules, yes, and I will be the host and master in this house of English, but for sure there will be doors to open that I’ve never noticed, and the students will feel free, I hope, to do the opening.

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