16 March 2010

CAUTION: smoking brain!

   I have reached the portion of the year in which I question my skills, my purpose and my expectations. Third quarter is always tough, especially in British Literature (juniors). They have learned my tricks, as I have learned theirs, and it becomes difficult to engage those who resist it on principle. Frankenstein, so full of ideas and feeling, so modern, leaves some of them COLD. I always remember at this juncture advice from an old boss in another career long ago: she told me that my enthusiasm intimidated others, that toning it down a bit would earn me the good will of my team mates. Was this an awful thing to say to a 24-year-old out to change the world? Sure. But... was there some truth in it? Absolutely. My enthusiasm for my subject can be tiring, and I need to refocus on my kids.
   Here's what I have noticed during this Frankenstein cycle. Since many of them have not read on their own since middle school, they seem unable to recognize plot, characterization, metaphor, and themes of classic works or even contemporary adult novels. I have noticed that some are no longer doing my "Readers Write" extra credit projects for each quarter. I generally offer a short list of novels as extra credit opportunities each quarter. So for British Lit, they could read and review The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh or The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett, or even a William Monk mystery by Anne Perry. Should I be backing off to young adult books--maybe just for extra credit choices? I do not want to, but need to work through my purpose in offering extra credit projects--to spark reading. To be fair (to me), those who do participate usually like the book they choose. But they are a tiny group, this year.
   This generation of students is so isolated from general knowledge in some ways--for some kids in my parochial high school, their parents make enough to buy them cars, but don't have the time to teach them how to change a tire (really!). They can buy fundraiser T-shirts for $20, but can't do their own wash. They know all about the opposite sex, but little about themselves.  Does this mean that this most technologically savvy, worldly generation of American teens is actually not mature enough to handle adult themes, though they partake of adult behavior?????????? I won't really give up treating them as if they are ready for my content, but the nagging question of whether or not I serve them as they need to be served will not go away. I think there is smoke coming out of my ears!

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