Jane Eerie

11 11 2008

At Pace, one of the subjects under my purview is reading comprehension.  Basically, this entails the children’s reading a story about two pages long and answering some questions about it.  If you’ve taken the SATs, you know the drill.

What I hadn’t thought about, however, was where they got the short stories or essays that are included in the textbook.  I’ve seen everything from the biological reasons for left-handedness to abridged tales of Holmes and Dupin.  While this never really bothered me, I have held occasional curiosity about how these collections come about.

Unfortunately, I don’t care how they’re collected.  I want to talk about Jane Eyre.

One of my 6th graders came up to me towards the end of the day yesterday and told me that she was having trouble understanding one of her stories.

“Well, let me see it and I’ll try to help you with it,” I said.

Lo and behold, I found myself looking at a two-page version of the scourge of literature classes everwhere.

While I try not to disparage the often sub-par textbooks in front of the kids, I found myself having to bite my tongue harder than usual as I realized the task before me: I had to make a two-page synopsis of this (of all books) 400+ page novel seem accessible to a student who grew up in China.

This was going to be tough.

Here’s what Irene probably heard me say:

So this girl who is kind of ugly and plain grows up in a scary orphanage sort of and then gets a job as a governess (yes, like in Sound of Music! That helps!) at an old (but not too old) guy’s house. One night, she smells smoke and saves his life right after hearing spooky noises from upstairs but he tells her not to tell anyone because apparently fires are very low-key sort of things that no one else noticed.  He sort of loves her and finally asks her to marry him but she asks him who that freak up in the attic is and he says he can’t tell her until they’ve been married for a year and a day (wow, that’s a long time not to know that! Yes, it is. He’s weird. They’re both weird). So they get married but except not because some guy says that Mr. Rochester’s wife is still alive and it’s the beastie living in the attic so Jane is sad because she can’t marry the guy who lied to her and she runs away to live at freak village with creepo pastor then comes back and marries the guy because his beastie wife jumped off a roof after burning the house down and now Mr. Rochester is blind and crippled and burnt but she loves him and they kiss (ew!) and they’re happy I guess even though this seems like a sad story.

How that one made it into Reading Comprehension Level 3A, only Mrs. Rochester knows.

Personally, I prefer Wuthering Heights.