As we have seen, the seventh grade mind works in mysterious ways. Last week left us pondering seventh grade translations for the euphemism, “vertically challenged.” In addition to the correct response, short, and many silly ones (retarded? stupid?), we also received three sincere, mystery responses: hard, clumsy, and gay.

Here are the kids’ explanations:
Hard – “Well, if something is vertical, it’s high, so it’s hard to get over. So it’s hard. So, see…” Hmmm. Why do all explanations like this begin with the word well, and have lots of so’s in them?

Clumsy – “Well, you know, if you have a hard time staying vertical, you’re clumsy right? Always falling down? Not vertical any more.” This one isn’t bad. I think I gave it to her.

Gay – “Well, if you’re not straight…you’re gay, right?”

Who am I to argue with logic like that? I asked the girl in the afternoon who had also said gay. She said that was what she was thinking too.

Of course.

More follow up and suchlike. And some actual talk about the namesake of this blog.

We finished The Outsiders. We read chapter 12 together, and there are almost as many tears during Johnny’s letter as there were in chapter 10. (At that time, while they read to themselves, the room was silent but for sniffle after sniffle. Why IS Dally’s death so much sadder than Johnny’s? One: It’s so sudden. We kind of expect Johnny to die – especially after the doctor’s words (“It can’t hurt now”), but when Dally goes down as Pony watches…It’s a slap upside the head. Two: We had finally seen Dally as a real human being, and not just a street punk. If he had died back in chapter 4, like Bob, there would have been few tears.)

Seventh graders also like all the loose ends tied up. Chapter 12 does that nicely.

They also love the fact that the book turns out to be Pony’s theme for his English teacher. They sort of remember the closing line is the same as the opener, but they have to look for it to sink in.

“That’s so cool.”

“I guess it’s longer than 5 pages.”

“Think he got an A?”

“Woah. Did he really do that? Wonder how long it took him.”

(me) “Remember, Ponyboy is a fictional character. S. E. Hinton used him to tell her story.”

“Wait, I don’t get it.”

There’s always one. Or two.

Meanwhile, we’re starting in on The Giver. The name of the blog won’t change. The Outsiders refers to the name of the novel I always begin the year with, but it is also the theme shared by all the novels we read in my class. Few people are more “outside” than seventh graders. All the novels we read in my class feature a main character who’s some sort of outsider: Pony and his gang, Jonas in The Giver, Alyce in The Midwife’s Apprentice, all humans in The Martian Chronicles, Tom and Huck, Charlotte in Charlotte Doyle, Moonshadow in Dragonwings (I haven’t done that one in a while, hmmm).

So stay tuned. We won’t read The Outsiders again until next fall, but we still have lots of stories of outsiders.