Sunday, March 15, 2020

Here’s my favorite beach-walker, striding along in the gentle light on Napatree Beach (RI) this morning …

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Click above to listen to a reading of “A New World” …

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Click above to listen to a reading of “Candle Flames and Teachers”


  Before I met Delycia, when I was still teaching, in the dark of winter I usually had breakfast by candlelight, and, as I ate, I often wondered whether it might be good for me, in my teaching, to be like that candle flame. First of all, the flame was flexible, a quality that would be immensely helpful to a teacher. The flame constantly wavered as the tiniest air currents passed around it, and I realized that I should do the same in my classroom as the currents of thoughts and behaviors circulate around me. It’s interesting that the definition of ‘waver’ includes ‘to vary or fluctuate’ and ‘to change from a previous opinion’, which suggests the good teacher’s ability to be creatively adaptable as circumstances in the classroom change, as they constantly do. I also noticed that the candle flame on my table gave off a very soft light, and that, too, reminded me of teaching. The light that emanates from a teacher should never be a glaring, obtrusive light, the kind that either blinds students or makes the teacher the center of attention. Rather, a teacher should simply be a steady but unassuming light that makes it possible for the students to see the subject matter more clearly – the kind of soft, suffusing light that one tends to not even notice. Finally, as I looked more closely, I could see that the candle flame was actually transparent and insubstantial. There wasn’t anything solid there, just a fluttering pattern of light and heat, and, in a sense, a teacher shouldn’t be anything solid either, for teaching is not about the teacher. A teacher should have an ego the size and substance of a candle flame. As their English teacher for one year, I was merely one of the countless lights that would shine on my students’ lives. Hopefully I could help to illuminate their path for a few months before I saw them disappear in June. Like the flame of the candle on my breakfast table, my job as a teacher was simply to bring a soft, supportive light into their young lives.

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“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.” 
― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

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