I haven't really looked at myself in a long time, but I think this is what I look like to my students, especially today when I sort of lit into them about rudeness and respect and the difficulty of teaching when they're walking around making cup o'noodles and chatting to one another and blurting out questions completely unrelated to the subject I'm talking about. I'm not kidding about the cup o'noodles. I think they got the message, though, because they got really, really quiet and apologized and then sang me some kind of song which was kind of embarrassing, but, damn, they're sweet and I just love my new job. I had them do this presentation in small groups about What the Creature Read, and each presentation was so original and interesting and funny and intelligent, that all my frustration melted away. If you're interested, we are finishing up a unit on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and since the theme I chose to dwell upon was empathy in the novel, and I found a really good curriculum on the world wide webs, the project was for each group to review a famous novel or work of literature that the Creature read when he found a bunch of books in a bag outside the home where he was staying. They had to answer a series of questions about why Shelley had chosen for the Creature to read those books and think critically about all of it. (Lord the whole phrase critical thinking!) The books Mary Shelley had him read included Milton's Paradise Lost, Goethe's Young Werther and Plutarch's Lives, and in lieu of my students reading all of those, I printed out some summaries and they went from there. If you're interested, The Creature basically learned from these books how to feel and how to live, so my students worked in groups and placed themselves into the Creature's shoes. They were incredibly creative, down to re-titling the books themselves, which was part of the assignment. For Paradise Lost, they changed it to Garden Gone Wrong. The Sorrows of Young Werther became The Book of Sad Love. One group did a silly play that was quite funny and each group made astounding drawings.
I hope it's okay that I put this up on the old blog. I am filled with delight over these girls when I'm not wildly distracted by their chattiness and unruliness and devotion to cup o'noodles. I'm looking for book selections for the 3rd term for the 12th grade -- thinking of Virginia Woolf perhaps, but which one? For the 11th grade, I'm thinking of Song of the Lark by Willa Cather. It's so profoundly American and has lots of music in it to break up the dryness. What do you think? Any ideas? Remember that I have massive restrictions on what I can teach -- no sex or romance or extreme violence or teenage pregnancy or suicide or mutilation or abuse or or or or or or.
When fighting time is on, I go
With clap-net and decoy
A-fowling after goldfinches
And other birds of joy;
I lurk among the thickets of
The Heart where they are bred,
And catch the twittering beauties as
They fly into my Head
Ralph Hodgson, b. 1879, Northumberland
Thank you, dear Andrea, for sending me this poem.