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Karen Adams Severe, my Uncle Ron’s first wife, embroidered this crewel. My mom kept it displayed throughout our house growing up, and I keep it above the whiteboard in my classroom now. Every time I see it, I think of a few lines from a great Susan Kinsolving poem: “Trust that thirty thousand sword- / fish will never near a ship, that far / from cameras or cars elephant herds live / long elephant lives.”

When I moved into the classroom I’m in now, I found boxes of handouts with prescriptive instructions for writing essays: this essay should have a certain number of paragraphs, and each paragraph should have a certain number of sentences, and each sentence should sound exactly this particular way. No room for creativity or growth. Where were the wild animals in windy canyons? Must we tag every sentient being, every sentence?

Over the last five years I’ve come to understand how students who do not know how to think coherently can benefit from handouts like these: some people learning to build coherent thoughts by working inside someone else’s scaffolding. The teacher provides the pieces and the student assembles them. I try to remember it shouldn’t all be construction. Sometimes growth happens in the wild, and to love something is to give it room enough to grow.

(Derek Smith)

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2 Comments

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  1. clarkdp #
    October 30, 2012

    You are so right but I sure find it a tough conundrum to parse in the moment.

  2. Rick #
    January 16, 2013

    Very true. Got to be creative.

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