03 July 2012


Though I have not posted IN MONTHS, it is not true that I did not reflect second semester. Because my classes are new, though, I needed to spend my time putting the reflection to use almost instantly, leaving me no time to write about it. But just now, I remembered an A-HA revelation that I need to document so that it seeps into my skin and becomes part of every lesson that I teach. My honors juniors group-read modern british short fiction while tracking the essential elements of the genre in the last quarter of the year. When the project was done, they had all read at least three stories, tracked the devices, strategies and identified purpose present in each of those stories. Their last job was to assess the merit of the stories and decide whether or not the stories deserved inclusion in our anthology. D. H. Lawrence lost out last year with "The Rocking Horse Winner." Next year, I am copying "The Horse Dealer's Daughter" instead--I think it will go better for D. H.   During the close reading part of the project, I must have visited 4 groups clearing up the continuing confusion between theme/motif and tone/mood. I do not know what I said differently, but I could see that something clicked, and it all went better, and this resulted in better analysis, and permanent understanding.

So I think this is what I explained differently: once I cast elements of tone as adding up to mood, and repeated appearance of motifs pointing the way to theme, everyone relaxed. EVERYONE. I could hear them discussing it together, after I left one group. It was if I had given them an equation to solve. And they get equations, for sure. For instance, if we list all the times a storm shows up in Frankenstein, and then they discuss the parallel emotional status of the characters experiencing the storm, the rise and fall of the action and mood of the gothic novel. Would they then arrive at  a thematic revelation? Hope so. Or for Narayan's "Snake in the Grass"--we map what everyone understands or believes about a snake in the grass-and then apply that to the the theme of duplicity.
 It was not life-altering revelation, but sometimes I like to enjoy what goes right. And I think they do too. Most important, the early disconnect between us reminded me of one of my own critical rules: repetition, repetition, repetition. Teachers need it too.

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