A few months ago, I was in Colorado for a training. I was with a stellar group of teachers from where I work and teachers from all over the country. Every morning, we would cram into a van that would take us to the training site. On the ride one morning, I was talking to a colleague about what I would be teaching second quarter. I told her I was going to be teaching The Pearl by John Steinbeck when all of a sudden, this lady who was sitting in front of me goes off about how much she hates The Pearl and how, “It is the most boring novel ever.” Number one, it is technically a novella, a short novel and number two, nobody asked this woman for her opinion. And rather than show her a little of my ghetto side in response, I smiled and said to myself, “Me vale.”
I love teaching The Pearl. It is one of the best texts to demonstrate to students how greed changes a person. If you aren’t familiar with the novella, a poor pearl diver named Kino finds the Pearl of the World. Before he found the pearl, Kino was pretty content with his simple life, living in a small hut on near the beach with his wife Juana and baby Coyotito. But when he finds the pearl, Kino begins to envision all of these things he wants for his family: clothes for his wife, an education for his son, a rifle for himself. The novella also demonstrates how others begin to seek Kino out because they want things too. Before he knows it, everyone is his enemy. Perhaps they feel if they befriend Kino or stroke his ego, he will share some of his wealth with them.
Too often students say, “How does this apply to my life? Why do I need to learn this?” We talked about that in my classes. As much as my students need to know the novella, I am more concerned with them being able to discern when others are using them in life.
Students worked in four groups. I asked them all to come up with a response to the question: “How do the events in chapter three of The Pearl, relate to my life especially when it comes to relationships?” I told the class that if the group responses had similar trends in ideas and phrases, that I would work hard too by doing a set of 25, 30 or 40 push-ups. Talk about student engagement.
After about eight minutes, they shared their responses. Let’s just say I have done a lot of push-ups over the last two days but I’m fine with that. They thought critically in groups and I loved their responses. In short, their responses could be summarized as, “Be cautious of those who only seek your friendship because it benefits them in some way.” Or as one student put, “Mr. Soza, you gotta watch out for snakes!”
Very true, and they are everywhere.