My English students are studying Gatsby. For a writing assignment I get them to choose (and this is THE most difficult part of the assignment) their favourite quote from the novel….
They can responded any number of ways, I just want them to write.
Write with abandon.
Here are some questions I may pose to get the creative juices flowing:
What is it that you like about this quote? The language choice? The imagery?
What confuses you?
How can you personally identify with what is being stated?
….guiding questions aside, they usually choose to approach this assignment their own way. And their own way is usually more profound.
I then share with them MY own response to the assignment. Sharing your writing with others is a difficult thing to do. It makes you feel vulnerable. It makes you feel über vulnerable when you’re 17. I figure I can’t ask them to do what I am incapable of doing myself.
What you’ll read here is my attempt at the assignment. You will find my student’s responses as text or as links to their own personal blogs, in the comment section:
“It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced – or seemed to face – the whole external world for a moment then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you, at your best, you wanted to convey.” Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby
I long for such a smile. I would find it difficult not to fall in love with someone who smiled at me this way,
someone who has taken everyone and everything in the world into account and
focuses on me with “an irresistible prejudice”.
Because, if truth be told, I often want it to be all about me.
With one look you know, deep within the recesses of your existence, thatyou’ve been understood and accepted even with all your flaws, and shortcomings and ugliness that once in a while rears its ugly head.
That someone thoroughly believes in you more than you can ever believe in yourself – all without condescension or impatience or obligation.
Imagine being looked at with the assurance that you are presenting yourself at your best and that best is pretty spectacular.
I am going to practice this smile. The most difficult thing will be its authenticity. Not to merely procure and manifest such a smile but to do so with sincerity. To smile at someone with absolute pure delight where a switch has flipped and joy released.
I bet you can remember a time you’ve been given such a look, the gift of such a smile. The first time you met your spouse? Your baby’s first smile? And I bet you’ve stored the wonderful feeling it created in your memory. But do you remember giving such a look?
To whom did you bestow such a gift and why?
Please enjoy the “comments” that follow!!
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