Last week I started teaching an excerpt Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur. I’m not a huge fan of this time period of literature, and we had already read a chunk of Beowulf and a chunk of the Canterbury Tales so the thought of reading another work out loud was making crazy. Like any good English teacher I allowed for my students to use the last ten minutes of class to read quietly. I sat down at my desk and started doing work. Not even five seconds later I started to hear talking. I looked up and my students were reading the story to each other out loud.
I almost fainted.
I was almost afraid to say something to them because I was worried that if I did the behavior would stop. They’d just start talking high school nonsense. I did tell them that I was very pleased and reinforced the good behavior. This of course didn’t work because this was the same class that a week ago all needed hall passes to the library because they hadn’t printed out their papers (something they also did this Thursday). I wonder if I can take credit for this behavior, both the good and bad. I doubt it. The good behavior was a case of straight up self motivation. I love it. It was the first time since school started that I felt happy to be in a classroom. Of course, this all went out the window on Thursday when every single one of my classes were the classes from hell. Sometimes, I think there is something in the water.
Watching my students break into little groups to get their work done and then actually doing it made me wonder why older people (I guiltily admit I sometimes do this) talk so much smack about the younger generation. While my students are not as motivated and disciplined and academic as I’d like, on occasion they show me that the potential is there. The possibility that when the world is in their hands they won’t disappoint us.
I will admit that I did tell my students, when they didn’t come to my class prepared, that I feared for my future as they would be the generation that would responsible for taking care of mine. Seriously, how do you not come to English class without a pen and paper? and how do you not get your crap printed when you’ve been reminded for a week? and why do you complain when you’re given a writing assignment in a writing class? Seriously?
God-willing the students will continue to surprise me (in good ways). I know I’m not built to teach high school, but there are days when it’s not all bad.
Have your students ever surprised you?