November 01, 2005 1 min read

High school English teacher Erica Jacobs admits that she often believes she knows exactly what each student in her class is thinking. And every year, all it takes is a simple writing assignment -- to write an Hamletesque soliloquy that answers the question “who are you?” -- to remind her it’s not true.

What I find each year is that the adolescents who seem predictable in their yearning for independence and longing to burst free from the constraints of class, homework, high school, and home, are also longing to break from the constraint of conformity.
When I read their soliloquies aloud in class, anonymously, students are surprised that others are “deep” and thoughtful. They’ve been hiding these introspective qualities for five years, and it’s a shock to know everyone else has been doing the same.
I find their words deeply moving... Every October, this assignment is a reminder that all my students are complicated, thoughtful, and very different from their projected façades.

An infinite number of monkeys might be able to come up with Hamlet’s soliloquy, as the old joke goes, but it’s nice to know that just a roomful of high schoolers can reaffirm a teacher’s faith in her kids.

(From Teacher Talk.)

A version of this news article first appeared in the Blogboard blog.