This morning I sat at my desk and smiled. My students met for the second time to discuss the Holocaust novels they are reading. We’ve switched from traditional Q & A, to something much more akin to a book club. This time they met in heterogeneous groups, as there are four different books that are being studied.
The first time they met, it was painful. The conversations were awkward and stilted. And to be honest, I was glad when the period was over. I, definitely, second guessed the wisdom of my decision to change to this format.
But today I sat at my desk, with a smile on my face, as I listened. While I could have walked around, in all honesty, I wanted them to forget I was there. And while each group’s conversation was much better than the last, there was one that was exceptional. It was so exceptional I wanted to be part of it.
My students discussed their novels with depth and insight. I was shocked at the caliber of conversation possible by grade 10’s, especially without an adult presence leading it. This statement in itself shows bias. But I’m beginning to think, maybe, these conversations were so good because my students weren’t worried about their answers being right or wrong. They weren’t worried about me evaluating them. They were simply sharing their thoughts with their peers.
Most of the discussion revolved around Elie Wiesel’s Night. They were shocked at the horrors he endured, and pulled out imagery and metaphor on their own. Many leaned forward and spoke animatedly. Every group stayed on task.
And I listened to the sound of sweet conversation. While this road is painful, for me and my students, it’s so worthwhile.
Photo courtesy of Flickr cc :seasonal wanderer