Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Teaching Journal
Day 50, Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I just finished a very rewarding class (for me, at least) with the 9th grade. What I found so satisfying was the fact that we went through my lesson plan in a totally methodical and thorough manner. Everything seemed to happen precisely the way I hoped, and each detail of the lesson was adequately covered. I feel the way we all feel when a job has been thoroughly and fruitfully completed. I’m sitting back, taking a satisfied breath, and smiling.
Yesterday, around 4:00 p.m., I was suddenly overtaken by a great sense of exhaustion. “What a long and tiring day!” I thought. I flopped into my chair and proceeded to feel sympathy for my hardworking self. Soon, though, my thoughts went to my students, who probably feel this kind of fatigue on a daily basis, even from one hour to the next. I pictured all 41 of them dragging themselves through the wearisome school days, trying their best to stay wakeful and dutiful from class to class. As I thought of these valiant scholars shouldering their heavy loads of learning, my self-pity slowly disappeared.
This afternoon a girl in an 8th grade class offered an unusual interpretation of a short story by Stephen Crane. She prefaced her comment by saying “This may seem sort of strange ...”, and she ended it with “Oh, never mind.” What came between those words, however, was an insightful analysis of one aspect of the story. The girl obviously felt diffident about offering her uncommon interpretation, and seemed almost too embarrassed to complete her statement. I made it a point to step in and reassure her that her comment was a wise and helpful one, and I took a moment to encourage all the students to welcome their ideas, no matter how out of the ordinary they might seem.
Lately I’ve been having the “assistant teachers” play a more commanding role in the classes. I’ve been giving them the projector mouse and they have actually been leading the class through the opening section of the daily lesson. I’ve encouraged them to speak with a sense of authority, which is a good lesson for all young (and not so young) people to learn. To speak with authority is to speak with weight and clout (something the quieter kids will find hard to do), but it doesn’t mean just being loud. The silliest people among us can easily be loud, but only the wise and discerning can be truly authoritative – truly reliable and respected. This week I’ve seen kids grow strong before my eyes as they led their classmates, with confidence and composure, through steps in the lesson.

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