The Life of Bon: What we did in class this week Round III

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

What we did in class this week Round III

First things first.  What I wore.

I've been into tights lately.  It's really all you can do when it's butt cold outside.  Also been into pops of color.  The winter is sucking the life out of me so I've been trying to liven up my wardrobe with at least one color piece.

Next.  What we did.

Seniors:  We just finished reading an abridged version of Les Miserables.  I am positive I lost at least half of my students- I gave them 10 reading assignments of 40 pages.  Ouch.  I told them it was good practice for college and that they must learn to skim, DANG IT!  Today we talked about the end of the book- namely Javert's reason for committing suicide.  This move totally throws me off because I see Javert as such a strong and determined character and when he goes and **spoiler alert** throws himself off of a bridge, it just seems totally contrary to his character.  We decided it was two things:  1) everything he believed in came crashing down (What Jean Val Jean's not a terrible character?!?) and 2) pride.  I guess he just didn't have the humility to accept the kindness of Jean Val Jean.

I also enjoyed ranting to 40 attentive students about my dislike for Cosette.  Dislike is a soft word for it, actually. I hate her.  She is such a weak character, has no redeeming qualities, and yet everyone in the whole book is obsessed with her and sacrifices heaven and earth for her happiness.  I think she's spoiled.  And ungrateful.  One student brought up that maybe it's everybody else's fault she's so lame- everybody tries so hard to protect her that she just lives a sheltered life totally oblivious to the suffering of everyone else.  Ah, student, now you've made me think!

Lest I not forget- a couple of days before Christmas break students performed in groups a song of their choice from the musical.  And you said I couldn't make them sing!  It was a combination of amazing/awkward/hilarious/terrifying.  Highlights included my Italian foreign exchange student doing the can can to Master of the House with a twin on each arm.  Lowlights included 18 year old boys pelvic thrusting on desks to Lovely Ladies.  Yah, never going to let them perform that song again.  I just kept picturing the principal walking in at that moment.

P.S.  I'm taking all my seniors to see the movie on Monday.  Wish me luck!

Yep.  It is a light show.

Juniors:  They finished their research paper and I am 16 papers away from being done grading them.  (I started with 80- so close!)  They had to choose a problem and solution in society.  Of course half of them chose to write on legalizing marijuana.  They're 17, what do you expect?  As much as I hate grading the research papers, it's awesome to see how hard they worked and that they sorted credible sources and made a works cited page and actually thought deeply about a problem in our society.  Topics ranged from salary caps for NBA athletes to gun control to bullying in high school to teen pregnancies to affirmative action.  I especially enjoy it when the students present their projects.  The rest of the class is required to write down two questions for each presentation and then we have a short Q & A session.  I am always amazed at what thoughtful questions the young bucks can ask and I think it's good for the presenter to be a bit put on the spot. They can act dumb, but don't be fooled.  These kids are smart.

We're now moving on to Tuesdays with Morrie.  I'll be the first to admit it's not the best written book, (probably written at a fifth grade reading level) but the kids totally soak it up.  They adore Morrie and while I am always nervous they'll think it's lame, they love the sentimentality of the book.  Last time in class I had students write on butcher paper everything they would do/think/say if they found out they had five months left to live.  Answers varied from knock up Selena Gomez and fight a midget (they're clearly delusional) to leave a gift for all my family members and write down a history of my life.  They have varying ranges of maturity I guess you could say.

I'm totally looking forward to tomorrow's discussion.  Early on in the book Morrie states that "Our culture is not kind to us.  It does not make us feel good about ourselves."  I can't wait to talk about that tomorrow- how reality tv, facebook, twitter etc is "not kind".  What does our culture make us believe about ourselves?  Also excited to play for them an excerpt of Morrie's real voice from Mitch Albom's official website.

Funniest conversation:  
Student: "How do you spell voluptuous?"  
Me:  "V-o-l-u-p-t-u-o-u-s."  
Student:  "Are you sure it doesn't have an M in it?"  
Me:  "Uh... yep.  Pretty sure."

Sophomores:  We finished our poetry unit last week.  BUT.  They all bombed the poetry test.  Which meant that today I let them retake it.  And they did better.  Phew!  I am still struggling to help my students love poetry.  I introduce them to all the crazy poets, Sylvia Plath (killed herself by putting her head in the oven door!) Emily Dickinson (never left the house!), Oscar Wilde (Arrested for public homosexuality!)  but they still don't totally take the bait.

My favorite poem ever might be William Carlos Williams' this is just to say.  We had a long discussion about whether or not this is a "poem."  Most students agreed it definitely was not a poem!  But then when I asked them why, the couldn't put a finger on it.  Love getting the tikes thinking about what exactly constitutes poetry.

The day before Christmas break we had an ugly sweater Christmas party.  Kids came in their ugly sweaters, we guzzled hot chocolate, and all sat in a circle on the floor while students read out loud for the class a poem they had written.  We snapped for applause and even had lamps on and a picture of a cozy fireplace in the background.  I got this idea from a comment that Kelsey left on my last What we did in class post.  And well shoot, I like it so much that I am officially stealing it forever!

Banned Book Club:  We read Perks of Being a Wallflower for December.  (Full discussion here) and in January we are tackling Slaughterhouse Five.  Our meeting is January 31 so we will discuss it then.  Feel free to join in on the club!

P.S.  I am thinking of starting a blogging book club.  You know, we all read the same book each month and then discuss it.  We could discuss it here in the comments and y'all could also link up your own discussion posts.  If I were to attempt something like that would you be in my book club?  Please please please please say yes.

Pretty Please?

P.P.S. this post idea is stolen from e at e tells tales.  I think she's real great.


  1. this kinda sorta makes me miss teaching. but it makes me miss high school more. :)

  2. Oh, and yes, I think the blogging book club would be fun! :) hence my "i miss high school comment above"

  3. I would join the book club! That sounds like such a fun idea!

  4. I teach 8th grade English ...I just teared up. I WANT TO TEACH REAL BOOKS SOOOO BADDDD and have REAL discussions!! WAHHHHH.

    Ok pity party over!

    Love reading what you and you kiddos are up too!!


  5. I would join it!

  6. Anonymous8:02 PM

    I'm a brand spanking new English teacher this year, fresh out of college and facing students a mere 4-5 years younger than me (I teach seniors) and it has been a rollercoaster, to say the least. I found your blog a few weeks ago and it has been absolutely wonderful and enjoyable to read. When I read these particular posts, I am inspired because I can't wait to be at that part in my career! You teach such fun and relatable texts and the kids seem to soak it all up (even if they do bomb their poetry tests).

    I wish I could teach all of those things, but we just got a new curriculum (SpringBoard) that we must stick to and it doesn't allow for much creativity and zero choice in adding texts. So one day down the road I would love to be doing what you're doing!

    I would love to participate in a blog book club. I can't promise that I'd be ready every time we "met," but I would try! I think it would be super fun.

  7. I could not agree with you more about Cosette.

    Your students are lucky to have you!


  9. I love "this is just to say".

    And I wish you were my kid's teacher.

  10. I want to take your class. Can I come sit in? :-) I'll keep the kiddos quiet and everything. Well, as quiet as a toddler and a crawler can be.

  11. lol your poses/faces in your outfit photos cracked me up. who do you get to take the photos? and sounds like an interesting time at least!!
    xoxo, lauren

  12. Crap!! I want to go back to being a high school teacher now!! you have made me sad....jk... a little haha. I start tomorrow after an extra 2 days vacay...but man I wish I could jump into novels with my little 7th graders :/ oh well I would be interested in a book club..but it would depend on which books and how my grad school workload is (i'm only taking one class and writing my thesis so not expecting too much)

  13. Sign me up for your blogger book club!! I read Slaughterhouse Five and I hate to say that I really just didn't get it, so I'm excited to read what your students and you have to say about it.

  14. YES! You have to start a blogger book club. I'd totally be into that.

  15. I teach 6th grade-- love hearing about other teachers' experiences!! Your classes sound really funny :)...blogger book club? YES!!

  16. I was just reading a movie review for Les Mis (I loved it, by the way, but the musical is still the best!) and the reviewer concluded that out of all the characters, Javert was the truly miserable one, hence his demise.
    And HECK YES to a book club :)

  17. Yes, I'll be in your bloggy book club, Miss Bon Bon. :)

    Gayle | Grace for Gayle

  18. I would deff join a bloggy book club but probably not till the summer as I am in school now.

  19. I an education(and human services!) major and am going into early elementary but you bring out my inner bookworm and make me want to teach HS english SO bad!

    I love love love Tuesdays with Morrie! Don't hate me, but I've never read Les Miserables. I have always wanted to but I have yet to. After you see the movie PLEASE let us know how it compares to the book, that will give me incentive ;)

    btw, each time you post about the books your students are reading, i find myself rereading them :)

    (also please dont use your teacher skills when checking out my punctuation and grammar...first day back at class today. boo!)

  20. Anonymous9:10 PM

    Oooh, a blog book club! PLEASE start one. I would definitely join :-)

  21. I LOVE E Tells Tales and I love book club! Please please please. I need to start reading more. :)

  22. I am 302% down for a blogging book club - I'm in college now and it's "impossible" to sit down and read a book (aka I have an attention span of a fly and can't focus on anything). SO PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO THIS PLEASE?~!?!?! Also - what totally SWEET english ideas! you sound like a bomb ass teacher that I wish I had in high school!

  23. Such a fun post! I'm already part of a blogger book club called Literary Junkies Book Club, however, I adore your blog posts and topics. I would love to be a part of that :)
    I'm currently hosting a blogger book swap at It's become wildly popular and if you're interested, we would love to have you :)

  24. You are the best teacher ever.

  25. doesn't everyone hate cosette? hahah

  26. I would love a blog book club!!

  27. Anonymous6:26 AM

    Wow! You sound like an amazing teacher. I wish I had had more teachers like you in high school. YES to the blog book club!

  28. Your class sounds great! I'd join your book club ;)

  29. Count me in on the book club idea!

  30. Book club! Book club! Book club! Book club!

  31. I love the dresses and the skirts for work! I haven't been wearing them because it's been so cold. I really should invest in fun tights so I actually want to wear pretty things!
    I remember loving reading Les Mis in school. But I guess because I've always loved to read, I didn't mind the length of the book. Had you seen the movie yet? I just saw it a couple weeks ago and it was really good but since I hadn't seen the musical or read the book since high school, I'd totally forgotten how DEPRESSING the story is. I think I'd just remembered the book being so good that I forgot the subject matter. That said, it was great and I'm expecting to see not only Golden Globe winners but Oscar winners/nominees for it.

  32. Totally forgot to mention that I'm definitely down for the blog book club. :)

  33. I wanna do the book club!!

  34. I wanna be in your book club! That sounds fun!

  35. I would have hated you for making me sing/dance in class. Not that I am shy by any means, but how embarrassing!! LOL!

    I would totally be in your book club!! I need suggestions on grown up books since I usually just read what my 13 year old daughter reads. Ha!

  36. I feel the same way as you do about the character of Cosette. I saw the play on Broadway back in my high school days and it to this day is my favorite. I saw the movie over the weekend and umm do not know how I feel about it yet.I'm going to say Kermit the Frog. See the movie and let me know if you get what I mean.

    I will say overall I did enjoy the movie and if I had never had the chance to experience a Broadway show i would have loved it. Visually it was a stunning movie.

    As far as a blog-book-club ,I am down for it!

  37. I love the posts about the students. Makes me glad I am not in high school anymore. Also, makes me wish I was in high school again.
    And yes, I would love to do a book club online with you. :)

  38. You know the iconic picture on the cover of Les Mis? Everyone always says that's Cosette, but I think that's stupid. I think it should be Eponine. If the point of the picture on the cover is to describe "The Miserable Ones" why not have a picture of the one who is miserable her whole life, instead of the one who is miserable for a few short years? Eponine has horrible parents (even if they did dote on her as a child), lives in poverty her whole life and is forced to live the life of a theif, is in love with a guy who doesn't even know she exists and then watches as HE falls in love with a girl she grew up with who she used to think was even lower than her. And then she died (haven't gotten this far in the book yet, so I can only go off the musical here) trying to be near this stupid man while he fought a stupid revolution he sort of shouldn't have been a part of since he was technically wealthy. :D

    Um, yes, I would LOVE to join a book club if you do it (even though I'm in one in my ward and can't even seem to find time to finish THAT book!)

  39. Anonymous11:09 AM

    A few random thoughts - I think you need your spoiler alert sooner on your Les Mes discussion. Also, Tuesdays with Morrie, the movie, made me cry pretty hysterically in religion class senior year of college - that's another one that there's a movie too. And woo-hoo for the Italian exchange student :)

  40. YES to the book club blog! I sometimes struggle a little when trying to decide how to pick my next read. I have a huge "to read" list on goodreads, but sometimes it's overwhelming to me!

  41. I would love to do a blogging book club. My literary standards have seemed to drop pretty low lately so I need help choosing good books.

  42. I'm all about the blogging book club! Count me in sista!


  43. i have so much to say that i need to put it in bullet form.

    -i have those same aqua blue tights. i wore them to church and was juuudged.

    -i love that you had your kids read Les Mis. i read it in high school and totally hated having to read so much, but i loved the story and truly, it was good practice for college. except college was more. x3.

    -i always assumed Javert's suicide was really the only option he had. Javert is an interesting character to me. he's pretty well versed with the ways of the Lord but has pride up the butt. it seemed to me that after multiple interactions with Val Jean-all of which proving him to be a better and changed man-he had no choice but to commit suicide. if he stepped down from that position of hard nosed authority then he would see himself (and perhaps others would see it as well) as weak. to such a black and white character, there was no room for accepting someone's repentance and change of heart. but suicide fell into that category of black and white.

    -i never loved Cosette. i never really liked her much, honestly. (unless it's the musical and she's little and she's singing Castle on a Cloud. then my heart melts.) but i did always feel bad for her. her dad left. she was the child of sin. her mom left. her caretakers abused her. her mom died. she was taken by a stranger and given a "better" life but that "better" life kept her from any kind of life at all. i just imagine her life as being very stuffy and boring and lame. and that's sad. i also think i didn't want to like her because i wanted Marius to love me. literary love.

    -the image of italian foreign exchange student dancing to Master of the House had me actually laughing out loud. as did the image of the desk humping. in their defense, it would be darn near impossible to actually dance to that song without busting a scandalous move or two.

    -i loved Tuesday with Morrie. it's an incredibly easy read and the only challenge in reading it is trying not to cry. and yet i do cry. every. single. time. i love the book though. i love how pure it is. i love that there is so much profound truth in it. i love the relationship that i feel like i have formed with Morrie though i never met him. i love it. and i think everyone should read it at some point in their life. preferably high school. it's good information to soak in during those formative years.

    that's all. loved this post!

  44. Pelvic thrusts, cute skirts, light shows, poetry…sigh. I'm going to go sub tomorrow to get my fill again and my baby girl will just have to deal. ;-)

    So glad you liked the coffee shop poetry and that it went well-- and even better that you threw in the ugly sweaters! Yes, please.

    I actually had some teacher friends that have post-christmas-break-brains, so I am posting some of my out-of-the-box ideas currently on the ole bloggy blog.

    And when I taught Tuesdays WIth Morrie I had them write a Eulogy from Mitch's perspective when we finished. Too much? A little dark? Eh, it worked I guess.

    AND I'm all sorts of excited about a blogger book club. As long as you choose sweet books… like anything by Twilight or Fifty Shades. ;-)

    Teach on, sista! You got it.

  45. I would totally join your online book club!

  46. Your students sound like mine- always makes me feel better. Sometimes I feel like I have to be the only one who has silly little beings that make me crazy and fill my heart with such pride all in the same moment!

    I am interested in your research prompt though. Going to be starting one with my 10h kids and the only direction I am giving them is injustice (we are pretty set on thematic units centering around social injustices- LOTF, Lesson Before Dying, juvenile justice, Othello and TKMB) did you find that they were too broad in their research questions or were they able to narrow it down enough to be effective?

  47. You are like the cutest teacher ever! I can't wait to see what you think about the movie Les Mis compared to the book. Also, I never ever read but always really want to. A book club would be fun and hold me accountable!

  48. You're class sounds like so much fun! High school needs more English teachers like you!!!

    And I would love a bloggy book club! I especially like the idea of a link up. That way a person could get their whole thoughts on the book out, but still have discussion with other bloggers!

  49. 1. Reading about your classes sometimes makes me wish I taught high school english instead of Kindergarten.

    2. I never liked Cosette either!

    3. I would LOVE to be in a bloggy book club!

  50. The winter is also sucking the life out of me and I actually posted today about colored tights as well! You make me want to be in the classroom again! I majored in elementary education though and realized at the end of my major that I should have done secondary education. Oh well. And I just saw the movie Les Mis and loved it! I wasn't really familiar with the story before, but thought it was amazing! And I would love to be in a blogging book club! I'm always looking for something good to read. I'm your newest follower!