Friday, October 31, 2008



"Hope" is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I've heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

Emily Dickenson

I like the way Dickenson figures hope as birdlike; I imagine a small bird, maybe a warbler of some sort, or maybe a bolder bird, a Jay or a Crow, a bird that actually sticks around in winter here. Maybe it's a Downy Woodpecker, small, but sticks around? Except I don't know that they sing much (I've never seen one making noise other than pecking), whereas a Jay or a Crow, you can hear them, and while the song isn't lyric in quite the way that a warbler's is, it's thrilling and insistently alive.

One of the benefits of teaching first year students is that every year, some of them really "click" with college, and do it publicly enough that you get to watch. So the kid who maybe didn't fit in so well in high school fits in much better, and it shows in class.

One of my students has clicked. S/he was consulting with the class mentors after class today, and then came to talk to me with revision work, taking what we'd done in class, applying it to a different writing project, and using it well. S/he talked about how exciting a science class is, how much s/he's learning in college, and how much s/he's enjoying classes. And I don't think it was just BS for the professor.

That short conversation paid me back for several hours of soul sucking meetings this week. If there were some magic way to get every student there, my job would be a whole lot more fulfilling.

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