"I learned something right now. I don't usually learn something but I learned something right now."
Thus spake a 2nd grader, a young man who was working on distinguishing between the long and short vowel sounds. We read the often used words as I tried to find examples of that-which-passes-for-rules in spelling the English language. Two consonants after a vowel make a short sound (except when they don't) was simple enough, and so was an e at the end of the word makes a long sound.
It got tricky when we got to cage and case and mice and nice. That c is quite a problem (as was quite, but we'll get to that later.) If it's cage and case why isn't it mike and nike? The e at the end of the word was the clue, and his face when he realized that the e at the end makes the c an s lit up the classroom.
That's when he decided he'd learned something. He went on to zip through the ce words, and enjoyed the story to which they were attached. He showed great understanding when he substituted his for the.... he was hurrying because he wanted to find out what happened, and calling it his bag instead of the bag just showed comprehension.
Of course, I made him go back and correct the error, but he did so knowing that his mistake was a smart one.
It took 30 minutes. It nourished me for hours. I've committed to returning every Wednesday throughout the school year. I'm going to rely on those little faces to bring me back to all that is right and good with the world.
It's not much, but it's a start, as I try to find my way through to whatever lurks on the other side. It's hard to be terrified when you're totally happy.