Young minds

One of the biggest thrills of being a teacher is simply watching powerful young minds engage. You’ve set a poetry task, say. The boys have started writing and know that they have to finish in five minutes (I’ve learned from classes by Cliff Yates and Peter Sansom that giving sharp, pressurising deadlines can drive brilliant breakthroughs). Heads lie on tables , eyes fix sideways on moving nibs, pens are chewed, everyone is busy. One or two stand out though. A weird kind of stillness comes over them – a stillness that quivers with inner movement. They’re like hunting dogs or cats when they see prey and go into a half crouch of total concentration, as if the world had fallen away from around their target, leaving it hanging in empty space, magnetized to them. And you know that when they finish their poems will be the truly memorable ones that go beyond individual brilliant phrases and ideas, and really do possess a total design.

That’s something I miss in retirement.  On the other hand, not having to teach people to jump through the hoops of exams any more is a vast relief.

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