Sitting with a three student group here, discussing the chapter the prophet.   I know from Jonathan’s session that this is his consistent goal, students doing the thinking, empowering them rather than dictating to them.   This group is plumbing for what is the greater truth of this chapter– looking at the text closely.  ”There is all this imagery of the soul… Ishmael is so judgmental… Ishmael has the weight of the world.  That is kind of ironic, that the more that Elijah tries to push this message on Ishmael, the less he is interested.”   Jonathan pushes them, gives them some urgency to their task, which is so important I think, introducing a small amount of the right kind of stress to keep them on task and focussed.
Now groups are presenting their “piths.”    For the ship: “He is drawn to the boat because of how ‘whaley’ it is.”  She cites the text with a specific quote to support her point.   “Perhaps he is doing whaling for the right reasons, so to choose that boat makes him think he is getting somewhere, on the right track, it inspires him that it is the real thing, a genuine old whaling ship. ” Jonathan points out a similar quote to reinforce her point, that he is drawn to an old fashioned concept of whaling.  A classmate offers another quote about every man being held in captivity, and she identifies a “paradox” in the concept, which is very nice.   Very grounded here in the text.   Another girl wants to pursue the question of freedom on the open ocean.    ”Seeing the world is more about the power of your perception than the vastness of your panorama,” Jonathan leads us to from the text as we work on what Ishmael seeks from the sea.
There is a really sane schedule to the day here; a total of four periods, each for 70 minutes; with 15 minute breaks between first and second and third and fourth, and the 50 minute lunch break between second and third.   And this is Friday, which with Monday are the four period days, whereas other days are only 2 block periods for two hours each (and a study hall period), if have my facts straight on this, which I am not sure I do.
Now new groups are presenting their chapters’ piths.   Jonathan moved us along, telling the kids they were “perseverating.”  ”The Ramadan chapter represents most of what Ishmael is uncomfortable in his life,” a student ventures.  Ishmael is a really descriptive guy, but he seems uncomfortable with women and about death.    Followup: what is it that bothers Ishmael about Ramadan.   Pushing them for more specific explanation, with support.    Ishmael is not just starving his body, but starving his soul, another student ventures, and Jonathan digs– in what way is he is starving his soul?  Laughter is important to Jonathan; he frequently seeks to induce it– and expresses his wish to be a better comedian for his students, which I really like.

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