Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Everything, Everyone, Everywhere Ends

NOTE: The introduction to this post was accidentally chopped off when I initially posted it. The corrected version appears below.

A student of mine I'll call Jack, the Linkin Park fan previously mentioned here, is in my extended day group. I'm a freak among teachers in that I sort of like extended day and I really like the group I have. They're good kids who by some bizarre accident were identified for extra help they actually need, so working with them is personally and professionally satisfying.

Some of the kids in my group all started reading the same book at the same time, and they were working on "deep questioning" the book today. "Deep questioning," for those of you who may not know what I mean, is asking questions about a text that use inference, prediction, wondering, etc.; that is, not questions that can be answered just by rereading the text.

So Jack is in a group with a boy I'll call Danny and two other kids, and Danny had the task of leading the "deep questioning" for his group today. Danny was struggling to come up with a second deep question after a good start (I had encouraged the kids to try to come up with at least three). It's a fairly heavy book inasmuch as several of the main characters die. "So," I said to the group, "remember that 'What if?' is sometimes a good way to start a deep question. For example, 'What if the boy's mother dies?'"

"That's not a 'What if?' question, Miss Eyre," Jack interjected. "Of course she's going to die. Everyone dies."

I was taken aback by Jack's literal interpretation of my question. He was not kidding--he was deadly (ha!) serious. It was one of those supremely uncomfortable moments we sometimes experience as teachers in which we're not sure whether to take it seriously, laugh, cry, whatever.
After what felt like an extremely long pause, I cleared my throat and said, "Well, Jack, of course you're right, but I think what Danny is trying to imagine is, 'What if the mother dies before the end of this story?'"

Poor Danny, also completely caught off guard, nodded meekly.

"Oh, okay," Jack said, rather casually, and went back to writing his own questions.

Still, it's not often I'm reminded of my own mortality mid-extended-day. Faculty conferences are much more likely to make me look forward to my own impending death.
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