Monday, January 26, 2009

"Only Oranges Left", oil on canvas, by Carol Marine

Teaching Journal

Day 82, January 26, 2009

In the 8th grade classes, we (or at least I) had a wonderful time listening to one of the final chapters in “Of Mice and Men”. As a teacher, it was instructive to listen attentively with my students to a great work of literature – to listen with them, annotate with them, and think together about the meanings of the words as the end of the story unfolded. Occasionally I glanced around at the kids, and it was enlightening to see how absorbed most of them were. Their faces were bent low over the books, and several students seemed positively entranced by the written and spoken words. It was helpful for me to be reminded of how enchanting a book can be. These kids were lost in this book. They were miles away from their personal lives – their worries and hopes – and instead were sharing Lennie’s worries and hopes as he sat in the barn and sighed over his dead puppy. They had been transported by this slim book to a far off place – a place where they were learning a lot more than I can ever teach them by holding forth from the front of the room.

* * * *

I noticed, again, that several students sit quietly and read when we take our two-minute break in class. The rest of the kids are in the hall or outside, chatting or just hanging out, but these devoted readers are curled up with their books in my classroom. Someone might wonder what pleasure they could get from a mere two minutes of reading, but that’s like asking what pleasure you could get from a two-minute observation of a soaring hawk.

* * * *

 Today I enjoyed working with the new “assistant teachers” for the week, encouraging them to be strong and steady as they lead the class through my lessons. Of course, I do the actual teaching, but these kids have the opportunity to show some leadership skills from day to day. It’s not easy for many of them – having to speak with dignity and force, having to make some decisions, having to choose one friend to call on when several have their hands raised. I can imagine that, for some of them, it’s a daunting, even frightening, experience. I’ll try to remember that as I show them the path of leadership this week. 

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