Loneliness and all

This week the topic for class is “loneliness.”  It’s not a comfortable topic, and I do nothing to make it easier — in fact, my goal is completely the opposite.  As we talked about the four parts of stories (characters, setting, problem, resolution) a few weeks ago in class, we’re press into the idea of problems this week.  In the first half of class, students learn about culture shock and discuss problems that people face in daily life, problems that they themselves have faced in the past.  In the second half, we moved into more specific, in-depth thinking and talking about loneliness and fear.  

It’s weighty stuff.  It is also one of my favorite lessons to teach, for a few reasons.  First, it provides a good challenge to the students to think and to use English as a tool to communicate and connect with other people about deeper issues than how many people are in the family and who their favorite celebrity is and how-are-you-fine-thanks-and-you.  This, in turn, helps to demonstrate to them that they actually possess the ability to communicate about meaningful topics and about themselves.  Relationships aren’t dependent on perfect pronunciation, accent, intonation, or grammar.  Language flourishes in the context of relationships, which require knowing yourself and being willing to open up who you are to others.  While I enjoy teaching this lesson, it’s also hard: before I ask them to answer questions like What is your deepest fear? I share my own answer.  And while I believe that this type of vulnerability and self-revelation is so, so necessary to language learning and relationships, it’s always a little scary!  Finally, I love this lesson because I get to see pieces and depths of their ability that I wouldn’t see otherwise.  I’m always (pleasantly) surprised by the quality of work that they give in response to some of the prompts in this lesson, and I have the delightful anticipation of getting to share some of their compiled work with them next week, to say, “Look!  You can do this.  You can communicate about anything that you want to, if you’re willing to show up and put in some work.”

So I teach, and they talk and write, and we listen to parts of Jon Foreman's Darkness album, and I think about the words of Mumford & Sons:

Loneliness and all
I was stuck to the spot
Without a friend
Alone again

And I hunger and I thirst
For some shiver
For some whispered words
And the promise to come

And you saw me low
Alone again
Didn't they say that only love
Will win in the end?

Of course, I hope that they also find that there are deep longings in their hearts, and in the hearts of their classmates, to be seen and known, loved and affirmed.  And I hope that they look into that discomfort and that “they should seek Him, in the hope that they might feel their way toward Him and find Him.”  

So think of us this week.  I’m looking forward to sharing some of their thoughts and poetry with you, too, in a few days as we wrap up this unit.  


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