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Review: The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Of all the books I had to read at school, The Moonstone was probably the only novel I really enjoyed. It is one of the first 'whodunnit' type of books and, remarkably, it manages to hit virtually every requirement of the genre dead centre. If this book was written today, it would still be a classic.

The Moonstone of the title is a rare yellow diamond, stolen from an Indian shrine by colonialists. Thought to be unlucky it is left to the young Rachel Verinder. The night after her 18th birthday party the stone is stolen from her rooms, and the rest of the novel describes how the various players eventually manage to solve the crime.

The plot features twists and turns galore, false trails and red herrings enough for two detective stories. Although the crime involved is 'only' theft rather than the more usual murder it is no less engaging as a story. The characters are well drawn and - social reformer that Collins was - there are strong women and intelligent and interesting servants as well as the landed gentry and philanthropists that inhabit the world of country estates in the mid 19th century that the novel is set in.

One feature of the book is that the story is told from the viewpoint of a number of the players. Firstly (and for nearly half the book) we are introduced to the Verinders and the theft by Gabriel Betteredge, a long serving family retainer who is head of the staff and a sort of de facto butler. Betteredge's narrative is charming and witty, full of dry asides and observations. His habit of picking passages from Robinson Crusoe and applying them to daily life is a quirk that is completely in keeping with his character.

Once the story moves to London, the narrative is taken up by various other characters, sometimes just for a short journal entry, sometimes for extended periods of time. Collins imbues each of these parts with a different voice really skillfully, keeping each character very separate.

Remaining calm in the classroom

On Tao of Mal

There are many benefits to meditation, one of them is remaining calm. When one is calm, their heart rate is slowed and blood pressure decreases. Mentally, we are able to make better decisions. We do not make decisions that are rushed or are made out of raw emotion.

I have spent 13 years working with young adults who have emotional, physical and mental disabilities. It is hard work, but also rewarding and important. It tests my patience and ability to remain calm.

One such test came a few years back. I was still relatively new to the New York City Department of Education. I had a 7th grade class of about 7-9 students. Some of the students had learning disabilities, some had ADHD and others had what is called emotional disturbance or ED. (I do not like either term.) The period before me they had a substitute and they completely trashed the room. When I came into the room, desks were turned over and the room was littered with paper, textbooks, and food. I told the class that this was unacceptable and that they need to clean it up immediately.

Most of the kids realized that they were wrong and begun to clean up. However, Jayden did not feel that way at all. (Jayden was a disruptive influence in class and as a result we had a strained relationship. Jayden was classified as ED, he was prone to lying and at times violence.). Jayden said he was not involved in the mess and therefore was not going to clean. In my mind I felt that Jayden was involved, but instead I told him that he was part of a class and that they were all in it together. He did not buy my response and said he was going to the bathroom. I told him he could go after he helped clean up the room. At that point, starting to feel frustrated I took some slow deep breaths and turned to work with another student. About a minute later I heard Mr. Purnell turn around! I looked Jayden was urinating into a soda bottle.

I asked Jayden to stop and told him to “put it away”. Instead he took the bottle and threw it at me, I ducked and it went out the window. At this point all eyes on the class were on me, Jayden was screaming and was ready for me to react. I took some breaths, and just put my awareness to the anger boiling up in me. I, then, in a stern but calm matter asked Jayden to step outside the room so we can talk. We had a conversation where I asked him why he reacted in such a manner. He told me he was upset about having to clean up the room. I sent him to the assistant principal. When I walked back into the room I was pleasantly surprised to see the students working together to clean the room.

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