ONE YEAR WITH AN ENGLISH TEACHER
Day 157, Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Yesterday I went over to school to make up the final exam for the 8th grade, and after doing a few questions, I started listening to Beethoven’s 7th symphony. Before a few minutes had passed, I was really getting into both the exam and the music. I was creating stimulating and out-of-the-ordinary questions, and the symphony music seemed to be making the whole room shake. Soon I turned the volume up even louder. The more passionate the violins became, the more fiery my questions grew. The spirit of Beethoven was conducting the music, and I was, I felt, “conducting” a brilliant exam. I sailed through question after question as the symphony rose to one peak after another. When I finished question number 59, and the music, a few moments later, came to a breathtaking end, I sat back and took some deep breaths, the exam arranged before me on the computer screen. It was a fine exam, but strangely, the words almost seemed limp, as though exhausted from the spectacular performance.
I had a remarkable 8th grade class this morning. I’m not sure I can recall a more stimulating or rewarding one. We read over, one more time, the four poems the students are writing their last, long essay about (due Friday), and the discussion about these poems was extraordinary. (At one point, I told the students their comments sounded, truthfully, like those you might hear in a college class.) Just a few things I recall:
n Looking to my left and seeing four girls absolutely riveted on me as I was talking about one of the poems;
n Ava making many insightful comments, including one about the importance of sometimes breaking away from your friends and just being alone to listen to your own voice;
n Emma, in response to a question about whether one of the poems expressed a theme of selfishness, saying that the people who are truly selfish are the ones who constantly demand our attention.
At the end of the class, I paused, made sure they were all looking at me, and then told them I felt very grateful to have been part of such a wonderful class. And I truly was.