I had an interesting experience the other day. My Yr 13s have now left as their A2 exams are looming. As they were leaving their final lesson, one of the girls, who struggles with the course, asked if she could come in and see me for a one- to- one session as she was really finding Lyrical Ballads difficult. Of course I said 'yes' and we agreed a meeting.
Anyway, a few days later, she came in and we began looking again at Wordsworth's poetry and it was clear that she was really having difficulty with grasping Wordsworth's religious beliefs. Then out of the blue she said, "I really don't agree with Wordsworth."
"What do you mean?" I asked, a bit puzzled.
"I don't agree with his views about Nature," she said.
I suggested that there was really nothing to agree or disagree with, as Wordsworth had a very specific religious belief when it came to Nature and that we just had to accept it, whether we understood it or not. Then I had a brain wave - I told her about my daily walks with my dogs at some stupid time in the morning (I start at about five!) and how I've seen some phenomenal sunrises and have just thought, 'Wow!' I asked her if she had had that experience herself, - just looked at something like that and realised that there are some things that make you realise that there are things that are beyond our material world or our comprehension. She was silent for a minute then said that she'd seen a sunrise in Iceland recently that was so brilliant that she'd photographed it and now used it as her wallpaper on her computer.
I asked her to tell me what seeing the sunrise was like and how it made her feel. She paused, clearly thought for a bit then said, "It was like music. Like seeing music."
That took my breath away so I just said, "That's it. That's Wordsworth. That's what he's talking about when he says about 'feeling a presence' that filled him 'with the joy of elevated thought.'"
There was a long pause then she said, "Yes, it is, isn't it? That's what Tintern Abbey's about isn't it? Feeling the music?"
And all I could think of saying was, "Better late than never!"
But she nodded, agreed and left with a huge grin on her face.
I don't know if that last session will make a difference to her exam performance, but I do feel that she, at that moment, had an insight into what Wordsworth himself saw and that has to be a good thing. It also reminded me at the end of a week when I was doubting my usefulness in education (a long story and one for another time) the reason I went into teaching in the first place.