Jane S. Cadwell

Instructor in English
CPD Coordinator
B Rodney Marriott Chair in Humanities
a smiling woman with curly blond hair


B.A. Williams College

M.A.T. Smith College

M.Litt. Middlebury College


My best day at school is the one when my classroom is filled with thoughtful silences, flipping pages, students reading aloud from the text, listening, laughter, geraniums in full bloom, and those indescribable sounds of ideas and confusions and clarity. My best day at school is the one when my students see the text under discussion as a very small package wrapped up in paper and string, like a gift, which when opened will grow much, much too big for the box that it originally came in. It is the day they see that the poem or essay or novel or play is bigger when they push away from the Harkness table than it was when they sat down.

My best day at school is the one when at the end of the discussion, my students find the literature is more complex, and maybe a little frustrating; it is when they have more questions, more interpretations and a much wider angle of vision. It is the one when they feel liberated from searching for a limiting answer, and I have helped the focus shift away from the search for “the answer.”

The best day is the one when my students make the reading as big as possible because everyone has prepared by reading and annotating closely and therefore each can add something to the discussion; the one when they are willing to give up their urge to whittle the work down to something manageable that is finite and ready to fit back into that original box. My best day at school is the one when I guide them to the snarls, the burs, the snags that they would like most to avoid, and encourage them to risk ending up with a shaggy discussion and perhaps even a forever-evolving understanding. That is my best day at school.