Monday, January 12, 2009

This morning one of the boys made an astute observation about the life of words. We were discussing how a certain word had slowly altered its meaning over the centuries, and I asked the class how this could happen. This normally taciturn student raised his hand and made quite a sparkling statement concerning the tendency of words to constantly change their meanings. He didn’t use those precise words, but he did speak like a teenage scholar, like a precocious little professor, like a youngster with a hidden load of wisdom. I was impressed. His statement shed a sudden and clear light on our discussion.
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During one of the classes, a boy was trying to formulate an answer to a puzzling question I had asked him about vocabulary, when suddenly a girl interrupted and gave what she thought was the answer. The boy paused, raised his head, looked at the girl across the room, quietly said “Please don’t interrupt”, and then went back to searching for his own answer. It was a dignified and strong way to handle the situation, and I told the boy that. I told him, and the class, that he spoke ardently but kindly to the girl. He was definitely brave and straightforward, but there was no meanness in his voice. It was a small matter (and I smiled at the girl as I said that), but it was a constructive lesson for all of us.

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