It occurs to me today (a clause I'll eliminate later) that getting students to feel the poem or story, feel what comes from commitment to word and line--even to accept for a split second the notion that language could move them if they let it--is all I do.
Today I read aloud in class Richard Ford's "Sweethearts" in its entirety, pausing occasionally for student questions, comments, reactions, thoughts, predictions. None. In fact, we all seemed content for me to read. The students relaxed into a read-along rate of, I'd say, 85%. It took the whole class. "Have a good afternoon," I said when it was over.
On the premise that more vigourous motivation might seep through by tomorrow, I've readied a page of my commentary, which they'll talk about in groups of 2-5. And with me when I come around to their table.
This is the fun part of my job. Just getting ideas for things to try is fun. In the face of granite-skinned resistance, I'll try to draw them out, trying not--as Elaine in Seinfeld put it so memorably (about men she'd like to date)--"to make any loud noises or sudden moves that might scare them away."
The pay-off--I need hardly remind you, dear reader (that's you, Uncle Roy and Aunt Rogers)--is many voices speaking in the classroom, not just mine. And every time a student speaks of his/her experience with, say, a poem, the poem expands. (Here I don't count the rehearsed disdain uttered by the young man or woman who needs English 100 but never wants it, never stoops to engage.)
As soon as I write this, I run into L______, my waitress at a south Regina pub, who says she can't believe how much she loved my class years ago. I thank her.