In Your Own Words

     My air conditioner went out, so I called a local company that handles such things, and a couple of hours later, two guys showed up. One crawled up into the attic. The other stood in a hallway next to my office, and we began to chat.
     "Are you a writer or something?" he asked me.
     "Yes. I'm a writer, or something," I replied.
     "I hate to write," he said, shaking his head. 
     And I said, "Let me guess. In high school, you were forced to write about things you didn't care about, in a voice that wasn't your own."
     He thought for a second, then answered, "That's exactly right."
     So I said, "Back in high school, if you could have written about anything — age appropriate — what would it have been?"
     And he said, without hesitation, "Motorcycles."

     Of course, he didn't mean "motorcycles" as a thing. He meant motorcycles as an experience. So, I told him, "If I had been your teacher, and if I had had the liberty to permit it, you would have read and written about motorcycles — in your own voice — and we both would have learned something.
     Point: Knowledge comes from experience far more quickly and profoundly than it does from reading. Granted, it is easy to misunderstand or misjudge an event or experience. Understanding comes from discussion, reading, comparison and guidance.
So, before you teach "Romeo and Juliet," consider asking your students this question: Have you ever had your heart broken?
     Then ask them, "Tell me about it. In your own words."