I love tangents in class. Yes, you heard me correctly: I love tangents in class.

Sometimes I learn more about my students in these situations than in any other, and sometimes we all learn a bit more about life than we could have done during the normal lesson.

Today while discussing the scene in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn where some townspeople exhume a body, students began asking unusual questions.

“How bad would the body be when they dig it up?”

“Is it true that the hair and nails grow when you die?” (I enjoy watching the kids’ faces when myths are debunked.)

“What is left when a body is cremated?”

“How much is left after cremation?”

“Where did cremation start?”

(Oddly enough and maybe eerily enough, I just watched a program about cremation a few weeks ago on The History Channel, so I could answer many of these questions.)

This led to a discussion about why people choose burial over cremation and vice versa. Also, we discussed how (sub)urban myths begin and what a few are. Finally, we discussed how the exhumation scene could become a part of a CSI episode and how the frauds (the king and duke as the Wilks brothers) could be exposed today and how they could succeed in conning a family. All this in the final 30 minutes of class!

What a great day! The kids were engaged, they asked questions, they bounced ideas back and forth, and we all learned about one another. While we may have strayed from my intended discussion items, the kids thought critically, explored deeply, and decided to research the topic some more.

I wish I had inspired them myself, but I’ll take true and honest curiosity any day.


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