Saturday, April 21, 2018

What We Wish for Them

Most days, I spend much of the time in the classroom trying to convince students they should read the meager 4, 7 or 11 such pages assigned.  Several do not read except under duress.  They know I love words, so they often ask me to read to them.

Sometimes I do.  Sometimes, I do not.

Today, was one of those "not" days.
"Why?" one asked.
"Because you need to train your brain just like you train your muscles, and that won't happen without practice."
"But it's hard!!!!!"
"It's two pages. You're in 10th grade. It shouldn't be."

They sort of read the two pages, and asked for help with the questions.

I sat wondering, should I have read aloud, if only to give them two more pages of material to draw from later.  There isn't enough time left in the school year to introduce them to all the stories out there that might chill their spines, thrill their hearts and challenge their brains.

One student lamented that we don't live in a Utopia, and I pined to hand her some of Plato's Republic and Animal Farm, and Hunger Games, Blithesdale's Romance and 1984 and the Giver, to illustrate to her the countless attempts to create a perfect society, and all the human moving parts which make it impossible.  However, she'd chaffed at two pages, and we'd even offered her some of those as choices and she'd refused because they were too long.  I'd love to somehow convince her to discover these books.  There's so much more than they imagine, so much more they could be exploring if only somehow today, something lit the spark. 

That's the real art of teaching, preparing each day in hope that this will be the day.  It will be a luminous moment, and all we who work with them are, is flint, striking at the tinder with steel, we are not the spark, and we are not the fire, only the instruments trying again and again and again and again, to create a flame. Today, someone will discover something more than they imagined, and it will be almost too much to bear.  It will act like a bubble of light almost lifting them through the rest of the day, even if it is filled with hard work outs or hard words. 

The whole goal of teaching is to help the students engage in the art of wonder, and revel in the world of ideas great and small, subtle and overt, beautiful and terrible, joyous and otherwise.  It's also to hope if today wasn't the day, that the kids went away fed, and chewing on some of what you presented, preparing for tomorrow, which who knows, might be the day. 

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