I chose “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot to memorize because it takes me back to my first year of teaching.
A room of sweaty teenagers in dress shirts and ties, blouses and skirts, waited, pens poised, for me to write down what the poem meant on the blackboard so they could copy it neatly into their college-ruled notebooks. Not only did I not know what it meant, but what would be the point of telling them? It was their job to figure it out.
They became begrudgingly intrigued; during their years of education among nuns in a strict Catholic school they had been trained not to speculate, not to come up with their own answers or even their own questions.
Back then, we had no Google ready to solve any mystery in 0.24 seconds; we were on our own. Their teenage minds could identify with being a specimen on a pin, with a “tedious argument of insidious intent,” with mermaids who didn’t sing to them.
Even if they didn’t understand it, they got it.
Read more at (Don't Be) Too Timid and Squeamish
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