Day 137, Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Today the 9th grade classes conducted some highly sophisticated discussions about two poems we’ve been studying. Fortunately, I remembered to review with them the basic principles of good discussions, which I think helped set them up for success. I talked about the importance of sitting up, leaning forward, nodding at the speaker now and then, staying focused, and perhaps occasionally paraphrasing what the previous speaker said. I emphasized that carrying on an intelligent and civil discussion is one of the more essential and difficult tasks a scholar needs to perform, and I told them I expected them to perform with distinction. They didn’t disappoint me. While I filmed them with the video camera, the students conversed about the poems as though they were college students instead of 9th graders. Their comments showed interest, understanding, and sometimes sheer wisdom. They even opened up some new layers of meaning for me, a veteran teacher who has read the poems countless times. I didn’t participate much, because they didn’t need my help. They talked, I listened – and loved what I heard.