Dante had the ability to be in the honors class for 11th grade English, but he couldn’t stay quiet. He called out in class, interrupting the teacher and annoying the studious kids intent on earning A’s. So he was demoted to my class of average students. Lucky me.
Paraphrasing a quotation known as a “critical lens” was on the agenda the day Dante appeared. Crossing my fingers, I gave an assignment that was a little challenging, asking the students to interpret a quotation ascribed to Benjamin Franklin: Hunger is the best pickle. I put the kids in groups, ostensibly to discuss the quote, but actually to make noisiness acceptable. I knew they’d be talking about everything except the quotation. I pretended to pounce on Dante’s group, and of course, bright light that he was, he came up with a reasonable interpretation. I don’t remember what he said. It didn’t matter. I just wanted an excuse to praise him.
I made kind of a big deal over this, asking Dante to repeat his answer to the entire class. Another boy in the group echoed my praise, announcing that Dante had been really good at explaining the puzzling quote.
Whew! What I’d done could have backfired, but luck was with me. Dante was never a problem in my class. His hunger for praise was the only pickle needed.