Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Day 60, December 4, 2007

I just finished a wonderful class with 9X. I was especially impressed with the literature discussion, led by Robert. He was much more authoritative than yesterday -- more confident and commanding. As he sat at my table and engineered the discussion, he had a more teacher-like presence than I noticed yesterday. He was less timid and more self-assured than before.

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In all of my classes, I've noticed more attentiveness during discussions -- more eyes fixed on each speaker. We've talked a lot about how important it is to look at a person when he or she is talking, and the students are slowly starting to make it a habit. Like most good habits, it just takes repeated reminders and repeated practice, and that's what we'll be doing the rest of the year. By April, I expect my students to be participating in totally focused and distraction-free discussions.

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Monique is the assistant teacher in her class this week, and today I thought she handled herself with surprising dignity. She sat up straight in my chair and spoke with some authority. Unlike many of the kids, her voice was not whispery and weak. She spoke with a self-assurance and poise that, I think, surprised many of us. This was a Monique we hadn't known before.

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When a boy asked to use the bathroom at the start of class, I paused for a moment, thinking about whether I should grant him permission. Huh? Hello? Ham, are you there? Why wouldn't I give a student permission to use the bathroom? So what if he misses a few precious moments of English class. There are some things -- actually, zillions of things -- that are more important than anything we do in English class. Fortunately, I had the good sense to quickly grant the student permission. I guess I had my priorities straight. In the infinite universe we're part of, 8th grade English class is no bigger than a microscopic speck. The universe will continue to stream grandly onward even if a student misses a few minutes to walk down the hall to the bathroom.

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