Saturday, April 10, 2010

"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield:" A Beautiful Sentiment Transcending Political Usage

Not to start out a blog entry like Frank Sinatra, but when I was 21, it was a very good year. I had just been admitted for a year's worth of study at Kings's College London and the London School of Economics. I was excited to go because it represented the first time I was leaving the country for an extended period of time. Nervously anticipating the closing of one chapter of my life and the opening of another, I forgot the most elemental of details: Luggage. I quickly came to my senses and bought a rather large blue Nike athletic bag and threw everything I could into it a day before my flight left O'Hare on a cold January morning. I arrived to the British Airways ticket counter only to find that my bag lacked a luggage tag, distinctive markings, or anything that differentiated it from about two dozen other large blue Nike athletic bags. I reached the counter and the ticket agent, an elderly British lady with an extremely thick British accent, asked me, "Should you want to write anything on the bag to mark it being yours?" (It took me some time to get used to how the British spoke. Queen's English, notwithstanding.) I took out a Red Sharpie and wrote what, at the time, was my favorite line of poetry: "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." After I placed the bag in British Airways possession, I remarked: "There- I start my journey to your country with a line of your poetry," I thought it was a great moment. The elderly British lady with an extremely thick British accent gave me this look that I still cannot shake which conveyed to me what I might have been perceived throughout my time in Europe: "Dumb Yank."
Over time, this moment and, in particular, this line of Tennyson's poetry has meant so much to me. As a student, I considered it the intellectual motivation needed to endure difficult and harrowing studies. As a starting teacher, this line helped capture much of my early and formative years. As the salt and pepper of age has impacted both my teaching and my receding hairline, I think that the line speaks volumes to where I believe the focus of all instruction lies. Tennyson's line can also speak quite vividly to what is being done this week in both seventh and eighth grade.
On one hand, I think that the seventh graders are engaging in their own Tennysonian quests. We are more than half way done with the teaching assignments and the challenges of being student, teacher, and student who operates as teacher have been quite apparent. I sense that it has been an eye opening experience for many, and a painful one for some. We conclude our tasks this week and enter the assessment phase for chapter 9. The exam will be one week from this Monday, with our next unit to quickly follow in Chapters 11, 12, and 13 with the growth of America. With the reaching of the halfway mark of the trimester this week, students should be extremely mindful that both time and points are no longer on their side, so in order to receive the best possible mark of success, they must persevere, must endure, must "strive, seek, find, and not yield."
For the eighth graders, who are the closest we have to the Ulysses figure that must hoist the sails and be prepared to set out on more and difficult journeys very soon, the same ability to never relent in the pursuit of a goal is evident. Students will be working on their Chapter 23 Assessments, due on April 20 and worth 900 points. Students will be assessed each day on progress made and focus being present. Time is no longer on their side, as well. We begin our study of the moral implications of World War II afterwards and a study in Holocaust Poetry. The time for students to believe that complacency is acceptable has long since passed. The focus on what needs to be done and the need to get it done must convince our eighth grade students that they, too, must adopt a mentality that seeks "to strive, seek, find, and not to yield."
Please encourage your students to adopt a Tennysonian mindset in the accomplishment of their work with the remaining time left in our respective journeys towards scholarship. Even though corrupt politicians have sullied the use of the line, it's still a beautiful one.
Normally, those things that are valuable transcend the brutal use of others.
All best and happy hunting.
Mr. Kannan

No comments:

Post a Comment