Because They Said They Love It

Full swing– that’s where we are now. I’m just returned from Parent Night, and the school year is four weeks old. It feels like normal, feels like the way it’s always been. I don’t remember (for now) sleeping in on weekday mornings and having long days to putter around the house. We’re used to it; we’ve (once again) become acclimated to Life During the School Year.

I’m teaching a new class this fall: Modern and Post-Modern Literature. It’s a senior English elective, and I am once again teaching the same group of students I taught humanities to for their 9th and 10th grade years. It’s lovely to be in the classroom with them this last time. They were so young once, and soon they’ll be gone– on to the next adventure.

But yes, the class is a new one for me. I had a great time selecting the novels, poetry, plays and stories for our syllabus, and I hit them with a hard one right off the bat: Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.

I love it. Oh, how I love it. It really might be one of the Best Books Ever, and I am enjoying it even more in the teaching– discovering again and again new and amazing things, reveling in Woolf’s amazing prose.

But it isn’t an easy book. I was warned away from it: Mrs. Dalloway is more accessible, they said.

Well, I like Mrs. Dalloway, but I really love To the Lighthouse.

I put it on the syllabus.

And then there we were, two weeks ago, reading together that opening passage. And suddenly I felt afraid– because I thought for certain that this book would just be too hard for them.

And it was Too Late to change my mind.

But we’ve worked our way through it. We’re very nearly through. And our conversation is insightful and rich. And yesterday three of them (3) said of this amazing and difficult book, “I Love It.”


What else is there? Is there anything else for this English teacher? Anything else at all?

I don’t think so.

On Reading Poems to a Senior Class at South High

I opened my mouth
I noticed them sitting there
as orderly as frozen fish
in a package.

Slowly water began to fill the room
though I did not notice it
till it reached
my ears

and then I heard the sounds
of fish in an aquarium
and I knew that though I had
tried to drown them
with my words
that they had only opened up
like gills for them
and let me in.

Together we swam around the room
like thirty tails whacking words
till the bell rang

a hole in the door

where we all leaked out

They went to another class
I suppose and I home

where Queen Elizabeth
my cat met me
and licked my fins
till they were hands again

–D.C. Berry

7 thoughts on “Because They Said They Love It

  1. My knowledge of Virginia Woolf:

    1) I (and Robert) liked the movie Mrs. Dalloway (although I don't remember much of it).

    2) I hated the movie The Hours

    3) The Indigo Girls have a song called “Virginia Woolf”:
    They published your diary,
    And that's how I got to know you
    Key to the room of your own
    And a mind without end …
    Now here's a young girl
    On a kind of a telegraph line through time
    And the voice at the other end
    Comes like a long-lost friend …


  2. I had a teacher in high school who encouraged me in my writing. I had her for creative writing and Modern LIterature. Two things I remembered about her when I read this post are,

    1. I loved studying things that she was passionate about, it is inspiring to be around someone inspired. The Vietnam war, for example, and Bruce Springsteen. Two things that intrigue me to this day because of her.
    2. She made me feel smart (which is something I never feel if left on my own). She seemed to enjoy watching us bloom and made me feel okay to still be young, but like an adult at the same time.

    when my kids are in high school, I think we will relocate to NC so they can take your classes!! šŸ™‚

    I blogged this quote the other day but incase you didn't see it:

    What a teacher or librarian or parent can do, in working with children, is to give the flame enough oxygen so that it can burn. As far as I'm concerned, this providing of oxygen is one of the noblest of all vocations.
    -Madeleine L'Engle from A Circle of Quiet


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