My favorite time of the school year is when I get to teach from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
It could be due to the fact that, of all literary characters ever written, I find myself identifying most with Elizabeth Bennet. (Or, at the least, I strive for her wit and clever mannerisms). I could look forward to this time so much because it means that my kids will finally be exposed to the excellent writing of Jane Austen. It could be because of my love/hate relationship with the newest film version of Austen's novel which I show at the conclusion of the book.
I think the real reason I so look forward to this season of my curriculum is because of moments like these:
--While reading through this book, I hardly ever send the kids home with homework reading. I much prefer to read together in class...and actually, I end up reading most of the book out loud to them. I do voices for the different characters, and I gesture wildly while reading so as to keep their attention. Inevitably, laughter and snickers ensue, but I know they secretly are entertained and love it. ;)
--When we finally get to some of the key moments of the novel (Darcy's unexpected proposal, the truth about Wickham's scandalous past is revealed, Elizabeth and Darcy's arguments), I sneak a peak at the students' faces. There are looks of shock, surprise and amazement---and I LOVE IT. They don't see that I see...but I do. Those expressions on the faces of my students show that they are into the story, which is, after all, the goal.
--By the middle of the book, I've figured out how to build and build and build and build up to a certain cliff-hanger moment in the story line...and then I'll tell them we are out of time for the day. The story will have to wait till tomorrow, and this announcement is met with many "Awww, Mrs. Kern! Don't do this to us! We still have, like, 8 minutes of class left. Keep going!" Seriously. Doesn't get any better than that from high schoolers.
--Once we've finished the book, played a review game or two and taken the exam, I'll give them a break, and we'll watch the film version of the book. By the end of the movie, at least two or three kids per class will have muttered something about how the book is better than the movie. I am always floored by these remarks, because I would assume that, to them, ANY movie would be better than a 300 page book. That's what I get for assuming. ;)
--And, my favorite moment of all........It happens when I'm walking through the halls, a few minutes after class, or after school. It happens when I least expect it. It is what I anticipate all year: when the male students in my class will sneak up, no buddies around to hear, and very quietly...almost in a whisper...almost inaudibly...they admit that they secretly really love this book. But DON'T TELL anyone, Mrs. Kern! Oh man. Love it!!
This may sound like no big deal, but it is a rare day when a high school teacher (perhaps ANY teacher) hears compliments from their students. I realize that even though none of the above mentioned phenomena are technically compliments directed towards me, I'll TAKE THEM! Encouragement regarding one's job can happen so infrequently that we should all take it in any form we can get. ;)
Anyway, my kids and I are about 10 chapters from the end of the novel, and I have to say that I truly do love what I get to do for a living. Read one of my favorite books and watch as my students fall in love with it, too. Doesn't get any better than that!
PS-For further reading, maybe pick up a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Russell bought this for me as a joke, and one of my students asked if he could borrow and read it. He LOVES it! Apparently the zombies show up in random parts of the rewritten story wreaking havoc on the residents of Hertfordshire and London. Plus, it has pictures. ;)