A girl and her cat take on the world with nothing more than a cup of tea and a good book and enough dreams to fill the universe.
Sometimes I feel as though the start of a semester is like watching the beginning of the Kentucky Derby. The gunshot is fired and all the horses leap out of the gates with a few stragglers who can’t figure out how to go forward. Here, all the students are motivated to get out and get work done. It is then, in the middle of the first week, that we begin to see who will survive, strongly pushing toward the finish, and who will probably struggle to float and those who have gone scuba diving. It fascinates me how fast this process occurs and I feel I am somewhere inbetween survivor and struggler.
What? There was a quiz! Don’t worry, the guy in the green hat studied.
It is mid-week and I have finished the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (we’ll save that post for next week) and am halfway through Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War. Not bad, if I do say so myself. I have also robbed my sister of all of her adolescent books and we had a really good chat about it at dinner last night. (How sad is it that my 17 year old sister invites me, the independent college student, over for a dinner of salmon and ginger spinach salad while my mom is out of town? It was delicious.) She told me the same things, almost word for word that I had read in Kaufman’s “Living a Literate Life, Revisited” and Gallo’s “How Classics Create an Aliterate Society.” She told me that the reason she loved Sarah Dessen was that she could easily relate with the characters. They were who she was. She is also really hating her AP English class right now which worries me because she has never been one to hate reading. I guess she says the teacher shoots down her ideas every time she says something that does not conform to the norm of the other students and his own opinions of how the text should be interpreted. Frustrating, to say the least.
It doesn’t have to be like this.
Anyway, while I was reading Kaufman and Gallo’s articles the other day, I could not help but remember one of the teachers I observed last semester. She was young and throughly exasperated with her students because of their refusal to read or enjoy reading. She even had me stand in front of the class and ask them why they hated reading. She was being forced to teach the classics because of the curriculum assigned and the district standards. There are books that every tenth, eleventh and twelfth grader need to read before they graduate and they’re books like The Scarlet Letter and O Pioneers!. Books most kids find boring. She wanted so badly to reach her students with literature, but was limited because of what seem to be archaic standards. I felt like I should share these articles with her because I think that they have some really good ideas, such as reading with your students and not staying stuck behind your computer grading or doing whatever else it is you have to do. Sharing your writing with students also seemed like a novel idea. I realized just how many of my teachers never actually shared their literary lives with me or had any evidence of having one. (My sister’s AP English teacher has never even read Harry Potter. That’s almost criminal in my opinion.)
I found this really awesome vlog on youtube that I thought might be able to help bridge the gap between the classics and youth. It’s called the Lizzie Bennet Diaries and it is absolutely amazing. I think that if, as a teacher, I used both Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, it would make the story a whole lot more accessible to the kids in my class.
Yep, Darcy. You have no fun. None at all.
Here in lies another problem. I want to teach English abroad and I am trying to figure out how all of this will work together. I was thinking that if instead of having my students read dull entries from an English textbook of Jill writing a letter to Jim about her vacation, I could have them read an excerpt from the Hunger Games and intrigue them that way. I also want to have a lot of young adult, easily accessible books that my students will be able to read if they want to try something harder or read it along side a translated work. Because, let’s face it, when we learn a foreign language, all we’re taught is “la femme mange la pomme” or “yo trabajo” (sorry, I have very weak Spanish skills) and there is so much more to language. Adolescent literature seems like the answer to my prayers as a way to make English real and connect foreign students to American/English students. That way they share culture and language. Amazing.
Anyway, I feel like this is abhorrently long. Thanks for bearing with me.
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No One Here But a Writer Who Gets Up and Try
Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller
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New York City based photographer STEFAN FALKE visits artists who live and work on both sides of the 2000 miles long U.S.- Mexico border to document the vibrant culture of the region for his ongoing project. All photos and texts © Stefan Falke (No use without written permission by the author)