Today after the class gathered for our morning meeting time I read The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. I had primed the pump somewhat by reading ghost stories all week and so when I said I had something I wanted to read to them, they were ready to tune in and listen for anything scary. I prefaced the poem with a few historical notes on Poe and his times as well as the poetic style of The Raven. I read with all the dramatic flair I could muster and would sneak a glimpse over the top of the book from time to time at the faces staring back at me. When I finished the students asked questions, "Who was Lenore?" "Could the Raven really talk?" "What does it mean that his soul will rise Nevermore?"
We've spent a lot of time this year building the notion that anything we read can and should be talked about, and anything we read may just be the jumping off point for another discussion prompted by a word or phrase from the text and today was no different. I did have a feeling of delight however that was different than the usual enjoyment of hearing the creative wheels spinning. The conversation was spurred on by a poem first published in 1845! Students were bravely going beyond their comfort zone in language, trusting there own understanding and capabilities to find meaning. I believe it's well worth our time to make sure young students hear the classics. There's usually a reason why certain poems and stories have stood the test of time. We are, after all, a nation of ideas. Our country was founded on an idea of freedom and democracy, the words that make up our best loved poems, songs and stories have woven the fabric that holds the country together and are just as vital as the ones that were inscribed on the founding documents. We owe it to the students to share excellent writing. We owe it to ourselves to have faith that they will gain something. It may not always be clear what is gained, and it may not show up on the next standardized test but why not believe in possibility?