Monday, September 02, 2013


     “In the beginning was the word” is a Bible phrase that always seemed strangely associated with my duties as a teacher, and today, as my former colleagues look forward to launching a new school year tomorrow, I’m thinking of how lucky they will be to feel the force of words in their classrooms. I guess we could say that words stand at the beginning of all things in classrooms. All lessons, exercises, readings, writings, quizzes, tests – all discussions, debates, arguments, speeches, lectures, comments, and remarks start with the force of a few words. Even the thousands of thoughts that arise during a given class period are constructed with words, as buildings are built with boards and stones and steel. Words are a sort of camouflaged force in the classroom, a force that kindles thoughts and carries conversations, a force that stands ready at the starting line of everything teachers and their students do. In fact, it has always seemed to me – and I often shared this with my students – that students and teachers do business with the strongest power in the universe. All wars start with words, as do all friendships, adventures, transformations, and triumphs. A world without words is a garden without daylight, a seed without soil. I’m grateful that I found myself, for 45 years, surrounded in the classroom by the everlasting liveliness of words, and tomorrow I’ll think happily of the teachers in my former school as they and their students set forth on another educational mission, with the steadfast assistance of spirited and inspiring words.


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