ONE YEAR WITH AN ENGLISH TEACHER
Day 26, October 12, 2007
I provide ice water and crackers for my classes, and it's interesting that I almost never notice the "server" (a different student each week) as he or she moves quietly around the room with the refreshments. It takes only a few minutes and the servers perform their duties so noiselessly that it's not surprising that I'm usually not aware of them. Today, though, I took special notice as one of the students walked around the table with a pitcher and a plateful of crackers. It was a good sight to see. The server was cordial with each person, and the students all said please and thanks. We were all reading silently (this happens at the start of class), and the peaceful atmosphere of engaged reading was augmented by the decorum of the server and students. I felt like I was in the living room in a gracious home rather than a classroom.
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My puppet theater collapsed twice today while Robert was serving refreshments. Each time, Phil and a few other boys got up quietly to help put the theater back on the table. No disturbance was caused, and almost no time was lost in the efficient conducting of the class. I thought it was impressive that teenagers could handle a potential disturbance like that with such dignity and aplomb.
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In the 8th grade classes, we listened to a song by Coldplay called "Fix You", and then the kids wrote quietly for a few minutes. It was a deeply moving experience for many of them, especially when I read their writings aloud with the sad song playing softly in the background. Whenever I glanced up, I saw only focused and sad faces -- especially Jeff’s, Monique’s, and Carley’s. Carley, in fact, was crying when the readings were finished, and Ava walked over and gave her a hug. (I even choked up a bit as I was reading, thinking about my late beloved father.)
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I was very pleased with the way the 9th grade collaborative groups worked today. This was their first chance to talk together about their complicated and challenging assignment, and the discussions seemed to progress with surprising smoothness and productivity. Two groups of four sat in the hall and conducted intelligent discussions (complete with setting individual assignments and deadlines), and two groups worked in my classroom. It was wonderful to see these young people doing an activity that will be so important in later years: working on a shared project with a group. They, too, seemed happy with the way things were going. As Phil put it, "It's a tough project, but at least we have friends to share it with."
Two questions for me: Why haven't I assigned this kind of project every year? Why did it take me 40 years to discover its value???