“Dorothea remembered it to the last with the vividness with which we all remember epochs in our experience when some dear expectation dies, or some new motive is born.”
--- George Eliot, Middlemarch
If an epochis “a period of time in history or a person's life, typically one marked by notable events or particular characteristics”, as one dictionary defines it, then almost every day in the classroom marks an epoch for me. The Victorian Era was an epoch, but so, for me, was last Wednesday, when some new techniques for teaching took me toward an entirely fresh understanding of my students, and so was last Monday, when I made some unexpected discoveries about doing drill work on literary terminology. On both days, I felt like I had looked into a whole new world of English teaching – like I had turned a corner and there, suddenly, were totally new thoughts about teaching. This happens regularly to me – still, at the seasoned age of 70, after more than four daring decades in the classroom. As I look back on the years, I see, like the historian, so many epochs and eras and periods and special dates, so many periods of time when teaching was more like discovering new lands than implementing a lesson plan, more like a non-stop series of surprising adventures than a day-to-day job. There were epochs when the kids came to class carrying ideas in their heads that helped me look at old books in bright and renewed ways, and there were periods of time – sometimes weeks on end – when my work was a daily escapade of insight and revelation. I was an explorer in Room 2, not a teacher. I was a traveler through epochs of learning and living, looking at the world with constantly restored eyes with the help of hundreds of whole-hearted teenage travellers.
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