Friday, February 01, 2008


Day 90, February 1, 2008

Today in one of the 9th grade classes, I could have sworn I was sitting in a senior-high English seminar. I was so impressed with the way the kids discussed Great Expectations. I've been insisting all along that they hold 'dignified' discussions (i.e., allow others to finish, don't interrupt, etc.) but today I had to give them a long leash. I couldn't hold them back. They got into discussing whether Pip had any morals -- whether he was moral, immoral, or amoral (a word I offered for consideration, and a new one for the kids). They went back and forth, voices rose, kids cut each other off (heavens! where's the dignity!), verbal battles raged. I was a bit awed as I sat back and listened. Dave was one of the most vocal detractors of Pip, saying repeatedly -- and citing evidence from the text -- that Pip had no sense of right and wrong, no ethical direction in his life. Johnny and Davinia disagreed, quite fervently, and offered some compelling support from the book. Philippe chimed in with some perceptive insights, as did most of the others. Bobby, actually, might have made the most quietly brainy remarks of all. He is proving himself to be a very shrewd reader of Dickens.

I was exhilarated when the class ended. I felt like skipping around the room. (Luckily I didn't.)


Georgia is demonstrating an amazing ability to recall small details from Dickens' book. Here's a student for whom English has probably never been a favorite subject, and yet she is reading this highly involved and obscure novel, and remembering it and understanding it better than most of her classmates. What's happening here??

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