Saturday, May 7, 2022

(Note: This is a paragraph I wrote back in 2012, at the beginning of my final year of a 45-year career teaching English to teenagers.)

            One definition for “levity” mentions “lightness of manner or speech, especially when inappropriate”, which is definitely not the kind of levity I want to promote in my classroom. This is the levity of the playground and after-school shenanigans, when kids are being their light-hearted selves, but it will never have a place in my classroom. In my classes I expect the spoken words of the students to be heavy with meaning instead of light with nonsense. On the other hand, another definition used the words “inconstancy and changeableness”, which made me think more positively about levity as a classroom ambiance. Changeableness is vital in an English classroom, because nothing is more changeable or inconstant than our subject matter – language and literature. We English teachers deal mainly with thoughts and words, two of the most unsettled and unpredictable entities in the universe, and so it should be natural for an English teacher to foster in his students an appreciation of uncertainty and unpredictability. I like to have order in my classroom, but the students must realize that it’s a somewhat superficial order, hidden beneath which is the ever-varying world of ideas and words. Finally, a third definition for levity describes “the state or quality of being light or buoyant”, a description I love because it refers to a quality that is indispensable in my classroom. My students and I both need to work on taking life more lightly than seriously. In the really big picture, putting commas in the right place is not terribly important. When people are dying by the millions from starvation, it’s not all that serious that one of my lesson plans flops. The kids and I need to be buoyant enough to rise above our little academic dramas and realize that the universe is way, way bigger than Room 2. A little of that kind of levity in my classroom wouldn’t hurt at all.


Look carefully at the word 'levity',
and you'll see little wings
that lift the word up when you say it. 
You can let this thoughtful word 
live inside you some days,
and the days will dance with you
and dare you to be 
just who you are. 
Jump up and down with joy, 
and the word 'levity' 
will walk along the distant hills, 
calling you to come. 
'Looseness' is this word's nickname,
and all who say it
can sing songs no one's ever heard. 
Let this limber word lift you,
and new ways to live 
will light up in the distance.  

Below, two scenes of early spring from our walk yesterday at the Coogan Denison Preserve …

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