“I don’t want to take notes. I’m not going to need this.”
Cody sat in the back row, his arms folded across his chest, his mind made up about the value of Emily Dickinson in his life. I smiled and encouraged him to take some notes, anyway. He sighed — the deep, eye-rolling sigh of adolescence — and picked up his pen.
That night I came home and logged into my webmaster tools in search of a way to improve the page loading time at Web English Teacher. I was quickly introduced to new vocabulary and some slick tools. I followed directions, and in no time at all, the entire site had gone from a solid green background to a bad case of green stripes. So I tried again. And again. Eventually I had my solid green background back and a slightly faster page loading time. I had also picked up some geeky words. But I couldn’t help thinking of Cody.
When I was in high school, computers were the size of whole rooms, and the internet was a gray cable on the floor between a couple of computers at UCLA. We watched men walk on the moon, though, and we knew that technology was changing; we just didn’t know how. How did my teachers prepare me in the 1970s for a job in the new millennium that they didn’t know anything about?
They taught me to read, to write, and to think. The rest was up to me.
That’s really all we can do for Cody and our other students. We can’t see their future any more than our parents and teachers could see ours. But anyone who can read and interpret a poem will be able to look with confidence at a lease agreement, a credit card contract, or a web tutorial and know they can figure it out. Eventually.
I mentioned this in Cody’s class today. For the record, he was unimpressed.
I like to see it lap the miles,
And lick the valleys up,
And stop to feed itself at tanks;
And then, prodigious, step
Around a pile of mountains,
And, supercilious, peer
In shanties by the sides of roads;
And then a quarry pare
To fit its sides, and crawl between,
Complaining all the while
In horrid, hooting stanza;
Then chase itself down hill
And neigh like Boanerges;
Then, punctual as a star,
Stop–docile and omnipotent–
At its own stable door.
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