I went into teaching because I love helping other’s to learn and be successful; my husband says I teach so I can boss people around and tell them what to do. Maybe he has a point– I am teaching Pride and Prejudice after all. However, I don’t merely want to teach it for purposes of meeting the standards (although they guide my practice); I really want my students to love it. I want my girls to grow up swooning at the mention of Mr. Darcy’s name (they know I’ve got first dibs) and look for partners who meet the Darcy ideal of respect, integrity, and honesty. Why would they want anything less? For my boys, I want this novel to be a guilty pleasure, and for them to be like Winston Churchill who read it to relax during the Blitz. I don’t want them to grow up to be Wickhams.
But how do I inspire them to love or even like this story? The first time (and only time) I taught it were not under ideal conditions. I had too much other stuff going on and had to rush through it. Five of my girls loved it; everyone else gently humored me (one boy made me a scrapbook of Mr. Darcy– I read it often). I revamped my schedule this term to give it more time and focus. Today was our second day with the novel and it was a good day– the kind of day that reminds teachers why they chose the profession in the first place. Yesterday we reviewed a Powerpoint of the novel’s themes and customs of Regency England. I reiterated my crush on Mr. Darcy. (“What happened to George Clooney?” asked one of my darlings.) We did a quick write on first impressions, what we notice about them, why they matter, and their pitfalls. Then they read the first chapter to discover why the very first line is ironic. Today we discussed the irony and humor of it and how it connected to the themes.
Then we got silly and had fun. I knew Darcy would make his appearance soon and make his bad first impression, and I wanted my kids to be ready for it. So prior to reading on, they created skits on “How NOT To Meet Someone.” They thought up scenarios and acted out bad behavior in the dating scene. Funny doesn’t quite cover it. They let loose, laughed in their antics, and were all engaged. When we got back to reading the novel, they actually chuckled when something was funny and they actively asked questions about why the characters did certain things (“What’s going on with Mrs. Bennet’s nerves? This is the second time she’s mentioned them.”). We didn’t get to the Meryton assembly, but tonight they’ll read about it and write about Darcy’s way how to not meet someone. Today gave me hope that they will enjoy this novel, and I will carry-out my master plan of creating a new generation of Austenites.