Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Home Stretch

Well, it feels like the corner has been turned. Tomorrow is the last day of class before Thanksgiving. We've got three weeks of classes once we get back, which is pretty much the home stretch. Then a couple weeks of Christmas vacation, a week of classes more or less mopping up, and the semester is over, and I get a whole new group of students to work with.

This part of the race, if I can stay with the home stretch metaphor for a moment, is where a lot of interesting things happen, or don't. My students are all working on major projects of their own design which will pretty much define where they have arrived at the end of the course with regard to quality. And all of the little messages, subliminal and supraliminal, that I've been pinging them with since day one are either having their effect, or not. But when they do, it's satisfying. Here's a paragraph from a reflection paper handed in by a student today:

As I wrote my Poisonwood Bible paper on the opposites of Rachel and Leah, I found myself writing about Rachel as a teenager and how her attitude was, if you don't like something, then complain as much as you can and try to find a way out of it. While Leah's attitude is try to enjoy the situation you're in even if you don't like it, and try to get something out of it. I then realized that this is what Mr. Schauble was telling us about in a previous class. I remember him talking about getting something out of the time we have in English class. Where you can either hate it or wait miserably for it to end, or learn something valuable... After realizing the cowardice of Rachel and the intelligence of Leah, I decided to try and live with Leah's attitude in mind and make the most of every situation.

With all due respect for the weather forecast and the likelihood of snow in November, I still can't help but be encouraged by this. We began the semester by writing down the quote from Christoper Clausen that I have written about before on this blog, and which I perhaps too often return to as a pointer to True North in my classroom: "All great literature addresses directly or indirectly two questions: What kind of world is this?, and How should we live in it?" I'm glad that Barbara Kingsolver's book, whether or not it fits into the category of "great literature," has this student turning the questions over in his mind.

(Image: http://www.ifa.hawaii.edu/~hsieh/photos_kentucky.html)

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