Friday, January 29, 2010
I'm not sure how many of you are American literature buffs, but I definitely learned something new today. Are you aware that "A long time ago Frank Fitzgerald wrote a rich and wordy novel called The Great Gatsby"? I definitely didn't know this information. I think this Frank Fitzgerald might be my favorite new author. I love old, rich and wordy novels. They are my favorite!
Thursday, January 28, 2010
On a serious note, I was incredibly saddened to read today about the death of JD Salinger. I get that he was old and lived a long life and whatnot, but that still doesn't stop a small part of me from feeling as though Holden Caulfield died today. We'll be starting The Catcher in the Rye in a few weeks and I'm saddened to know that I have to change my notes to reflect this recent event. I read Catcher, and then all Salinger's available works, when I was 15 and I knew even back then that I was falling in love. When I found out I was going to get to teach Catcher, I was overjoyed. I was never assigned to read it in high school and I was so excited to share this book, which had meant so much to me, with kids.
I've read several articles recently about the relevance of Catcher to today's high school curriculum and how kids just aren't getting it anymore. While I understand where this line of questioning comes from, I still find the book incredibly relevant. Kids are always going to feel alienated from the world, no matter if it is 1951 or 2010. Holden Caulfield is the same whiny ass, apathetic kid who sits in my classroom today. But the thing we have to remember is that Holden is, in fact, a kid. A kid who went through some serious stuff, much like what kids go through today. You can say kids today have nothing in common with Holden, but the truth is, they're experiencing love and loss and heartbreak and adventure for the first time, just like Holden did. In the end, I just want to give Holden a hug and tell him everything is going to be OK, much like Mr. Antolini, Holden's former teacher (who Holden worries is gay and hitting on him). I think there has to be a sense of empathy for Holden, and all kids out there, buried in the hearts of teachers everywhere.
So I'm always going to have a soft spot in my heart for Holden Caulfield, just like I'm always going to think Salinger's short story "Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut" is one of the best modern short stories I've ever read. (The last line kills me every damn time!!) I'll start Catcher with a smile and hope to god that they never make a movie out of it, because, just like Holden says, " "The goddam movies. They can ruin you. I'm not kidding."
The Great Gatsby is my favorite piece of literature and one of my all time favorite books. Sadly, teaching one of your favorite books can be, well, disappointing. For example, here are some essay excerpts I've collected over the years...
"They are both single unlike most of the characters in relationships."
"He may seem like he fells morally soupier but he is. He also believe that Gatsby is a good guy he believes in Gatsby's moral seniority to everyone."
"Nick sees this very alarming, as she should."
"Gatsby lives in this totally extravagant house in West Egg. There was tons and tons of room filled with many expensive things."
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
My favorite kind of students are the ones who are unabashedly nerdy. I appreciate this more than they'll ever know. For example, two boys are reading haiku poems to each other in movie preview man voices. I look over and laugh at their nerdiness. Their reply:
Kid: You know you want to join in. This is so epic, you have to join.
Monday, January 18, 2010
The kids love "Roots". Even though they watch it first semester in American History, they talk about it all year long. For example, we're into second semester already and today I overhear this conversation:
Boy #1: Man, I loved Roots.
Boy #2: Yeah, but the thing about Roots is there are too many boobs.
Boy #1: Dude, what are you talking about, there's no such thing as too many boobs.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
Warning: If you haven't watched Lost season 5 yet...this is going to have some spoilers!!
Yesterday I posed some questions to the class to get them ready to discuss The Great Gatsby. One of the questions asked about when it was OK to lie to people. Knowing I'm slightly obsessed with Lost (which comes back in a few weeks!!!!!), a kid raised his hand an gave this answer:
"OK, so you know in Lost when they all leave the island? It's totally OK to lie when you leave the island and make up a bogus story about how you left and that everyone else is dead because you wanna protect them and if Widmore found the island he'd just kill everyone, but maybe Ben's gonna kill them all anyways, but it's OK because no one else in the world knows they're alive, but I guess it doesn't matter because it's 1974 anyways. So in that case it's OK to lie."
I laughed until I cried.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Reason #498098 I love my job: calling kids out on their ridiculousness. You know what's always ridiculous? Hickeys.
For example, we're reading some Modernist poetry this week and during our discussion of T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" today, I got to mix literary analysis with kids' stupid decisions.
Me: So how can we characterize Prufrock?
Me: Maybe a bit, but obviously Prufrock is a very isolated and lonely guy, something [kid in the back] knows nothing about, as he is covered in hickeys...
Class (all 32 of them turning around to pointing): BUUUUUUUURRRRRRN!
Me: Be smart dude, wear a turtleneck or find a creative way to cover it up.
EDIT: The next day he tried convincing me that it was a paintball bruise. Liar.