My AP students are studying sonnets, and learning about how to read them to discover their riches.

This is not to say one can’t simply read a sonnet, love it or hate it, and move on.

This is to say there is an artistry to the form – an artistry to any form – and when we are learning the form, we study it carefully, closely.

We read and witness many of them. We spend more time with some, less with others. As teachers, we find ways to position students to see things that are not apparent to them after a few readings. We create scaffolds of surprise, steps to epiphanies, gateways to connections, pathways to see, unpack, appreciate, re-pack, and marvel at the whole as a sum of its parts.

This kind of teaching takes time. Patience. And then more time, and more patience.

It is far easier to stand in front of a class and walk them through all the things they should see and then move on. I’m ok with doing that as a sample once in a while, especially with a new form. But only after they have tried it themselves. Collaborated with others to share ideas and insights. Looked again at a second text. Thought some more. Hit a wall.

Only then do I have a feel for what they know, what they can notice with simple invitations like “have you read it for sound? what do you notice when you do?”

When I have honored their thinking, probed their surmising, do I have a feel for the depths they missing.

It is quite easy to show a student a “new” technique, or device and then send them on a scavenger hunt to go find an example of it.

It is another to invite them to insight – to say “Great! You’ve found it. Now, so what? what does it do? how does it create / impact the meaning you are sensing?”

This is when the surprises, the epiphanies, the connections, the room starts to sound like so many little awakenings: “Ohhhhhhhhh…wait, Ms. Bulla, can you come here? Is this saying _____??”

Sometimes it’s a soft “ohhhh, I think maybe_____,” and sometimes it’s an excited, exclaimed, “Ooooo! I got it! I have an idea!”

Where there are the joyful sounds of discovery, there is meaningful learning.

There is no teacher evaluation rubric that asks for incidents of student joy.

There should be.