A “sanctuary”, in one dictionary, is defined as “a place of refuge or safety”, which makes me think of my small classroom out in the countryside in Connecticut. It’s just a commonplace, unexceptional room in a school that’s hardly noticeable among the forests and fields, but it’s a place where young people can proceed with their learning in an atmosphere of safety and assurance. It’s a shelter, you might say, from the storms of their young lives – the haste and anxiety they surely must feel in this mildly madcap world of 2012. They don’t face physical enemies, but they face fears of all kinds each day, and my classroom, I hope, can help them hold off those fears so learning can let itself down among them in its tender way. My classroom is a place of commitment and industry, yes, but it’s also a kindhearted place, a room where real respect can be felt the way you feel the softness of sunlight after a storm. The students know they are free to follow their thoughts wherever they lead them, and they are assured, day after day, that the dangers of disdain and ridicule have been removed from their lives, at least for these 48 minutes of English class. Beleaguered people seek safety wherever its found, and these days, a few careworn kids come to my classroom for the quiet kind of safety that comes from studying superb writers in an atmosphere of peace and acceptance.
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