While walking an introductory class through a close reading of “The Defense of Fort McHenry” (better known as “The Star-Spangled Banner,”) I noted that a student had wondered whether the appearance of “In God We Trust” on US currency had anything to do with the inclusion of a similar phrase, “In God is our Trust,” in the poem that became the U.S. national anthem.
I confessed to the student that I didn’t know the answer, and suggested that the next time a thought like that occurs to her, I’d love to have her share her findings with the class.
An hour or so later, that student showed up outside my office, with a printout from the U.S. Department of Treasury website, having found (and highlighted) the answer.
That wasn’t the only reason she wanted to see me, but I was still happy that she had taken the initiative to follow up on a class discussion, and that she wanted to share with me what she had found.
The other poem I chose for the day was Jabberwocky, which I’ve known by heart since high school, so it was a lot of fun to do the oral interpretation while supporting a quick-and-dirty reading of Carroll’s famous nonsense poem as a version the hero’s quest, and Alice’s discussion with Humpty Dumpty as a spoof of the scholastic tendency to consult an authority (Humpty Dumpty, who “can explain all the poems that ever were in vented — and a good many that haven’t been invented just yet”), rather than encouraging Alice’s instinctive reaction: “Somehow it seems to fill my head with ideas — only I don’t exactly know what they are!”