An exchange of ideas – with poet Thomas Traherne

Good teaching, like all human achievement, is negotiated between a number of contributors; teachers work together to share ideas and create activities, school administrators provide guidelines and training for their staff, but most importantly the lessons themselves are a dialogue between teacher and students.
This is a process in which both are working to understand the other and communicate their understanding; “What does this mean?”, “Let’s do that dialogue again, and this time you be the customer and I’ll be the shopkeeper”, “Today’s topic is weather. What words do you know to talk about the weather?.. (silence).. “Look out the window. What’s the weather like today? Is it sunny?”. And even the classic:
TEACHER: Maria, go to the map and find North America.
MARIA: Here it is!
TEACHER : Correct. Now class, who discovered America?
CLASS : Maria did!!

This circulation of ideas, information and understanding is central to how humans work, which was brought home to me by this, from “The Circulation” by 17th century poet Thomas Traherne.

All things to circulations owe
themselves; by which alone
they do exist: they cannot show
a sigh, a word, a groan,
a colour or a glimpse of light,
the sparkle of a precious stone,
a virtue, or a smell; a lovely sight,
a fruit, a beam, an influence, a tear;
but they another’s livery must wear….

The “but” in the final line has the meaning of “unless”….


About The Henry Brothers

We are English teachers involved in ELT publishing in Turkey, and also touring the country giving workshops and presentations to English teachers, mainly on the use of poetry, storytelling and other lively activities in the classroom. We can be contacted by e-mail to or
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