Admittedly, chapter 9 has some filler. I still don’t get Pony’s little poll about why each of them fights. I finally eliminated questions about that from my quizzes. Unlike almost everything else in the novel, this feels tacked on, maybe just to build tension for the rumble.

There are a few laughs. Soda trying to cheat at poker (I always have to stop a beat, and let them catch it), Steve catching him, and of course, the horseplay and Two-Bit’s Soc imitation. “Get thee hence…” They are quick to see that they are trying to get themselves fired up for the rumble. I point out that they do it by using the insults others hurl at them. Soda sticking his tongue out at Darry is a fine image. And Dally’s line when he shows up is a classic.

Tomorrow, we’ll read aloud up to where Dally jukes the cop on the way to the hospital. I let (make) them read from there to the end of chapter 10 on their own. Part of it is like they figure, part of it is that they need to experience this for themselves. This is what makes them have a connection to a book, and sometimes even makes them realize that reading is a good thing, not a chore.

It also lets me read some of the papers they’re bringing in tomorrow. That way I can nip the problem ones in the bud, and make them go home and revise. That’s what we mean by multi-tasking.

Ok, now I just have to offer one more example of the way the seventh grade mind works. This just happened again, but these days, I already know the reaction I’m going to get with this line, since it is always the same. It happened first years ago. I was getting frustrated with having to repeat something for the 47th time (get used to it if you’re out there thinking about teaching middle school), and I blurted out:

“Jeez Louise, my dog learns faster than that.”

Now, in middle school, a judicious use of sarcasm works very well. However, for seventh graders, the line is very fine. It also depends on whether they are the targets or not. But if you have a relationship built up, and the kids trust you, you can get away with some things for which other teachers might be called mean. But still, when I first said it back then, I immediately thought that I might have just crossed that line for some of them. Another lesson learned. The almost unanimous response was (and still is),

“You have a dog?”