Sunday, February 17, 2008


Day 98: Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Today a student came to my classroom to show me that her copy of Great Expectations was falling apart. “Look, Mr. Salsich,” she said, “the pages are literally falling out. I can’t keep it all together.” For a moment, I was dismayed to see a book in such bad disrepair, but in another moment I realized what a great piece of news this was. This was a girl who is habitually one of my finest students, a girl who has read the pages of this sometimes difficult novel with rare diligence and devotion -- has highlighted and annotated each of the pages, has looked up countless words in the end-notes, and has made meticulous and thorough entries in her reading journal. As I glanced through the book (and as pages fluttered to the floor), I could see the reason for its poor condition: far from simply reading the book, this girl had studied it, dug deeply into it,. attacked it. The book probably didn’t know what had hit it. Most readers slide smoothly through a book, barely pausing at all, and so the book remains unsullied. Not her copy of GE. She had journeyed along its trails with a heavy backpack, stopping often to camp or just poke around, and she had forgotten the old camping rule of ‘leave no trace’. Signs of her travel through the book were everywhere, most notably in the pages lying at my feet. I looked at her, smiled, and offered my congratulations. “You are a good hiker. Save this book forever,” I said. “It will remind you of a great adventure you had in the 9th grade.” She smiled and nodded.

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