Thursday, February 19, 2009

"Bowl of Clementines", oil on canvas, by Elizabeth Fraser

Teaching Journal

Day 98, Thursday, February 19, 2009


     I’ve been thinking about the word ‘pressure’ these days. The 8th grade has just completed two days of pressurized presentations, and, as I write this, they are loosening and lightening up in the library, trying, I suppose, to untie the knots this project has tied inside them. They’re relaxing around the library like freed pieces of string, happy to be unfastened. Oddly enough, as I was watching the children deliver their presentations I found myself thinking of espresso coffee. The only way you can brew a truly strong cup of espresso is by forcing steam under pressure through the coffee beans, and sometimes it seems that a good way to create a truly fine group of scholars is by purposely placing them under significant pressure. It’s hard to watch them suffer through the trials of writing nine-paragraph essays and delivering fifteen-minute formal speeches, but the end product – stronger, wiser, more durable students – would seem to justify the distress and anguish. Pressure makes diamonds, espresso, and – we trust – exceptional 8th grade scholars.    

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