Thursday, January 10, 2019


Blackboard by Winslow Homer, 1877

I've completed my first week of teaching three English classes of eleventh and twelfth grade young women. Here are some observations and notes:

  • a bit of Emily Dickinson -- hope and the thing with feathers -- inspired a group of let's say recalcitrant girls to write their own three stanza poems using extended metaphor and dang if they didn't do a beautiful job

  • have argued over whether or not to read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (only the 12th grade girls are reading it, now). It's old. It's hard. Cry me a river.

  •  read aloud Christina Rossetti's The Goblin's Market and are now doing a fine analysis of it (thank you, LP, for turning me on to this strange and wonderful poem). I felt a tad uncomfortable reading the provocative parts of the poem, given the sensual imagery of juices running out of mouths, etc., but this poem! the language!

  • have begun reading Hawthorne's Rappaccini's Daughter. Remember that? I loved Hawthorne stories as a young reader and hope to pass along the weirdness (not of me but of him) to these students. 

  • have worn black tights three times this week which is more times than in the previous twenty years. This is not hyperbole

  • who knew I had so little modest clothing? I've had to purchase some things that make me feel strangely invisible which provokes thought -- interesting thoughts --we think the ways in which we adorn ourselves speak to identity but maybe they don't because I am still me however much I look like an Italian widow 

  • (the question of being told what to wear and what constitutes modesty and the concomitant questions of male authority and hierarchy and what it means to be reverent, etc.) 

I am both exhausted and exhilarated, my voice hoarse at the end of the teaching period, warranting a Rules and Expectations hand-out that includes some communication pointers and a stern demand for respect for me and for one another which translates into Refrain from interrupting and talking over one another and me. 





  1. Sharing your love of literature with young eager students seems perfect for you.

  2. I agree with Jill.
    If this is an all girl's school, why the need for such modesty? Don't even bother answering that.
    Honestly, despite the dress code situation, I think this new chapter in your life is absolutely splendid. I can't wait to hear more about it.

  3. I confess I had been eagerly awaiting your update, and I love that you and the girls are recalcitrant in your own ways and yet willing to come to the table to make magic happen! I think this is going to be a rewarding journey for you. Oh, I hope it.

  4. It's always interesting to see how kids respond to certain materials. "Frankenstein" isn't a hard book, but of course the language is a tad antiquated so part of their brain automatically shuts down, which is a shame. Are the clothing demands stricter than your average public school, do you think?

  5. I love hearing these dispatches from the front lines. If you haven't selected a book or author from 'within the culture' of these students, then I strongly urge you to consider it. Don't want to inadvertently send a message that only certain works are "classic" and "educational".
    Modesty is exhausting. It would be much easier to issue strips of cloth to bind the eyes of people gazing immodestly, rather than bundle up the objects/subjects of the gaze with a presumption of their immodesty.

  6. I've always found dress codes, especially religious dress codes amusing. I don't think god cares what we wear. Sadly, people do.

    It sounds like the perfect fit for you, not the clothes but the reading, the love of literature, young minds to expand and imbue with your love of literature.

  7. the Winslow Homer picture is priceless! LN

  8. Being told what constitutes Modesty is indeed very subjective, isn't it? Being told what to wear I remember was oppressive, I still remember the days when Girls in School couldn't wear pants for example and we lived in Upper Michigan and it was freakin' freezing wearing skirts and dresses in the dead of Winter! Times changed, mercifully, and Freedom... but in some cultures and faiths there are mandates that are strictly followed, not always voluntarily. Feeling strangely invisible by mandated dress code is indeed thought provoking. I'm so glad you're sharing your Love of literature with these precious young Girls... sparking interest in reading is becoming a lost practice, in my Grand-Daughter's 7th Grade they don't even use real Books anymore, everything is done online and I just Hate it!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...