Day 115, Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Today we began the 8th grade English Assessment presentations – an extremely taxing project in which the students have to summarize a great amount of material in a 20-minute talk before their classmates and a panel of judges. Each year, I am astonished at the poise and wisdom of the students as they make their way through their presentations, and today was no exception. All of the students showed courage, some showed extraordinary self-assurance, and a few showed the poise of gifted high school seniors. One after another they approached the podium with dignity, spoke with attention to detail, and answered our intricate questions with patience and thoroughness. It was a memorable day for me, and, I think, for them. One reason none of us will forget the day anytime soon is that one boy nearly fainted at the podium. He was about halfway into his presentation when he suddenly lost the power of speech and seemed to stiffen before our eyes. It was almost as though he had become paralyzed. I waited perhaps five seconds to see if he would recover, and then I went up to the podium, put my arm around him, and led him out of the room and down the walkway to the nurse’s office. He was pale and trembling as we walked, but he did manage to mumble a few words, which was encouraging. The nurse took him right in, looked him over, and assured me that he would be fine. Relieved, I walked back to the room and we continued the presentations, but not before I had to console a certain girl, who was sobbing over what had just happened. All of the kids are the boy’s friends, but she is his special friend.