The Road Not Taken

During my first year of teaching I had the wonderful opportunity to teach one of my favorite poems, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. I typed a copy of the poem on my old, trusty typewriter and then made a copy on an overhead transparency.  I taught the students about rhyme scheme, imagery, and theme.  Here is the poem to refresh your “freshman” memory:

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;            5

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,            10

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.           15

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.           20

To help the students discover the theme, I asked them to state why taking the path less travelled made all of the difference.  Almost all of the kids went with the ideas of taking a risk or not following others.  Except Philip.  Philip stopped me in my tracks in that “yellow wood” with his response.  He saw the speaker of the poem as having chosen a criminal path, one the majority of us do not choose.  And now, the speaker was facing the consequences of his actions.  Perhaps Philip was bringing something personal to the theme; perhaps he was only trying to be different, thereby demonstrating the theme of the poem; or perhaps he was a true outside-of-the-box thinker.

It does not matter why he said it so much as the fact he showed me another way to see a message from a work of literature.  For me, it was the start of realizing I was not omniscient.  (A wife and children finished that whole omniscient idea.) I learned that the students have so much to offer to classmates.  And, to take it to the world of work,  companies do not rely on one leader to know everything; they rely on input from the team members.  Eventually, the leader makes the final decision, but different perspectives shared in an honest, safe setting lead to success for all.

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Filed under Lesson Plans, Lessons from students

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