You vs. Speransky
It's often surprising what can generate a good discussion in English class: last week I had the kids read a short passage from War and Peace -- which sounds like the kiss of death for getting kids engaged -- and the passage is fairly abstract, it's about master rhetorician Speransky, who "would never even think of acknowledging the idea that we all have thoughts beyond our power to express them" and I then had the kids compare their persuasive ability to that of Speransky, on a scale of 1-10, with Speransky being a ten, and explain why . . . and this led to a surprisingly lively discussion . . . it's good to think about how well you can express yourself, and how well you can influence others with words, and I've come to the conclusion that I'm not very persuasive at all -- my credibility is suspect (earlier that day when someone was wondering about the difference between dandruff and dry scalp, I proclaimed: "Dandruff is dry scalp! Dry scalp is just a euphemism for people who don't want to say they have dandruff!" and I'm not sure why I claimed this, as I know nothing about either topic, and it turned out that I was completely wrong -- dandruff is caused by a bacterial infection . . . but I have a horrible habit of arguing any side of a topic -- even if I'm not passionate about it, and then I'm quick to concede that I'm wrong and often easily persuaded to the other side and I also have trouble remembering specific examples, and I'm not capable of generating a whole lot of emotion, like those teachers who can tell a class that they are "very disappointed in them and know they can do better" . . . I tried this and the kids just laughed at me . . . so I don't think I would be a very good politician . . . and, of course, when I needed persuade my students to donate money for poor children, I couldn't motivate my kids with words, I had to use this gimmick . . . and I'm also easily distracted, and apt to digress onto longwinded tangents).