Wednesday, July 31, 2013


          In Book 6 of The Prelude, the poet William Wordsworth writes of “a flash that … revealed / The invisible world”, and it occurs to me that it might be the kind of flash that happened occasionally in my English classes. It’s a fact that English teachers and their students, since they work mainly with words and ideas, often concern themselves with the unnoticed, the masked, the invisible. There are times when they’re like explorers in the world of the unseen. In a way, they are part-time clairvoyants, using a human being’s peculiar ability to see beyond normal sensory contact – in their case, beyond the outer shell of words on a page and into the concealed country of their meanings. English teachers, of course, are visible as they sit at their desks in the classroom, and their tools are certainly visible – books, paper, pencils, digital devices -- but they do most of their labor in the kingdom of ideas, those ghostly gift-givers that flit through our lives with spirit and influence.  A visitor to my classroom might have seen a fairly uninspiring sight – a group of teens and a bald guy quietly communicating with each other – but what they wouldn’t have seen is what’s special. Under the surface of the seemingly commonplace conversations, unseen and pristine ideas were always dancing around – not because I was any better than any other English teacher, but because that’s what happens when adults and kids converse about words written in wonderful books. It’s like science fiction, really – a strange, clandestine universe just inside the doors of great books, and behind the doors of almost any English class.

No comments: