31 May 2010


WARNING: the yearend meltdown continues. Remember that I teach high school juniors and seniors. Paramount to my teaching is the knowledge that they are about to be released into the wild, and I do not want them to be eaten alive by other wild animals........
  So many thoughts are roiling around in my mind as I grade research papers, and I realize that they prove my two overriding observations this year:
1) children need more practice in thinking critically and therefore writing critically and analytically because they do not read as much anymore, and
2) the emotional and moral youth of my students may prevent them from achieving what they so desperately desire-independence, integrity and happiness. Add to this the random (really?) ideas that come to me by way of students, other teachers, our student teacher, blogs I read, my kids--
** the move to retreat to young adult fiction for high school students that our student teacher is researching in her classes (not very happily either)
**the negative judgment of the classics as worthwhile (or the canon as I hear it now, though I am not sure what is on that list)
**the acceptance that new modes of writing are equal or superior in their significance and skill sets to the "old"--emails all of a sudden are "long" writing, blogs replace reviews, tweets are great creative tools, etc etc. Why can't we see them as new and not replacements?
**the expectation that everyone copies homework and that's not a big deal (for teachers either). For me, that means reading enotes is as good as reading the novel. Knowing about the book is the same as knowing the book. Really?
**that students cannot sit for long and should not have to.
**everything we teach should be fun and instantly engaging.
**grades are bad for kids. no grades are good.
The list goes on. I feel the need to react to these new "truths" in some way--no one wants to fail all the time (meaning me, not them). But everything in my heart cries out for the measured journey to achievement, surviving the bumps in the road, doing the hard stuff and being proud of yourself. Even the characters in the novels know this--Elizabeth Bennett suffers through her life until she knows what she feels. Holden Caulfield won't let go of what he instinctively knows to be true. We all suffered this year with Oedipus as he careens desperately towards truth and damnation in equal parts....... Kind of how life works, isn't it?
Is it true that they really do not need to read, to consider their own visceral reactions to something someone else wrote, anymore? I do know that I will not be teaching carmen figuratum to seniors in the future, because on the list of skills they must have, it is lower on the list than it used to be (a very long story, I assure you). But I would not understand my life today if I didn't know I exist in the myriad layers of human experience that now mark soft spring rainfall as a motif that a billion human beings still recognize as an archetype for cleansing.  But are there skills and concepts that I feel are critical, that aren't anymore? Have I lost my instincts?

And maybe this only means that I need to stop focusing on the kids that take the short cuts or know that doing the minimum will be enough, and focus instead on the great kids, who GET what you read and want to learn with me.....more later. Got to read more papers, hoping that they are the authentic ones.


Knighton said...

These are all great things to consider. I look forward to reading your blog this summer (as we are not finished, either) and to reading your thoughts on these subjects. I'm glad that I'm not the only one questioning these "truths."

Healigan said...

Thanks, Knighton. I don't want to be an anachronism, but some of the new stuff I am reading and hearing defies common sense (at least for me). Already missing my kids, though.