Friday, August 16, 2013


On the road I sometimes find myself behind a slow driver, and within seconds I’m usually simmering a little, much the way my students probably silently simmered when I made them read -- actually study --  a book like To Kill a Mockingbird very slowly -- paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence, sometimes even word by word. Many of the students, I feel sure, would have liked to rush through the plot of Harper Lee’s novel as quickly as possible and then rush on to the next book, just as, when I find myself slowed almost to a standstill behind a leisurely driver, I grow anxious to push on with the business of the day. Like most of us, I want to get where I’m going quickly so I can quickly get to my next goal, and then my next, and on and on, and I fear many of my students thought of reading in a similar way. They were accustomed, perhaps, to reading a novel mostly to find out what happens, and then starting another one to find out what happens, and so on and so on. Things were very different in my rather measured and deliberate English class, and I sometimes saw, with some surprise, the similarity between languid, dilly-dallying drivers and my own teaching methods. A sluggish driver ahead of me was like old Mr. Salsich and his infamously slow style of both reading and teaching. The slow-moving driver made me slow way down so I had nothing better to do than take pleasure in the drive, and I made my students slow down as they traveled through the pages of the beautiful and far-reaching  novel. Sometimes, in fact, we came to a momentary halt among some splendid sentences; indeed, sometimes we even stopped to observe and discuss a single paragraph for an entire class period! “Let’s get going!” my students must have been silently screaming as the minutes crept along and the English class bus remained at a standstill beside a few sentences, and I want to yell something similar as I crawl along behind an unhurried and perfectly satisfied driver.

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