ONE YEAR WITH AN ENGLISH TEACHER
Day 159, Thursday, May 29, 2008
Today I gave back the 8th grade exams, and, after going over all the answers, Johann raised his hand and informed me that I mistakenly marked one of his answers correct. I looked at him for a moment, and then said, “Johann, are you telling me I should subtract two additional points from your grade?” He nodded. I looked at him for a moment longer, and then said, “Johann, please see me after class. I need to subtract two points from your grade, and I also need to give you a reward for being an honest and brave person.” He looked a bit dumbfounded, but then slowly nodded. The class was silent for a few moments before we moved on to other business.
I had what I hope was a reassuring talk with Mimi after class today. She had done poorly on the exam, but during class today she made, as she often does, some dazzling comments about the literature we’ve been studying. For her, the poems and books we’ve read this year go right to the heart. She doesn’t mess around with the surface of books; she dives deep into the words on the page and finds the connections to her own life. She did that quite beautifully several times today, and after class, I talked with her for a few moments. I told her that, yes, she had done poorly on the exam, but, on the other hand, she had performed brilliantly in class today, as she often has throughout the year. I told her that there are many important talents that no exam can reveal, and her talent for finding personally relevant truths in literature is one of them. I said that, for me, the talents she reveals day after day in class discussions are actually far more important than those tested on an exam.
I hope she believed me.