The Life of Bon: What we did in class last week Round IV

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

What we did in class last week Round IV


Pic #1: Shirt: Target Cardigan:  J. Crew Necklace: Forever 21 Skirt:  Forever 21 Tights: Target Shoes: Kohls
Pic #2: Shirt: Forever 21 Necklace: Indigo Bean Bracelets: Shine Project Skirt: Forever 21 Shoes: Forever Young
Pic #3: Cardigan: Downeast Outfitters Dress: Target Leggings: Forever 21 Boots: A buddy on study abroad who was throwing them away.  Thank you, Jordan Hall!

Lately I've been feeling really frumpy in pants so I've been hitting up the skirts.  I don't know what it is about "work pants" but they make me feel ultra unsexy.  Anybody else struggle with this?


Seniors:  We have started reading Lord of the Flies, and so far so good!  I read on the New York Times Teaching Blog that Lord of the Flies is on the top ten list of books that English teachers don't like to teach so I was hesitant going in.  But the kids have been eating it up like wildberries on a desereted island.  To introduce the book we took a quiz on survival skills from this site.  I taped A, B, and C, to different places around the room and then had students move to which answer they thought it was.  No student in my three classes got to the end- most died of the snake bite.  Some of the avalanche.  Sometimes I worry that when I do these activities I am just wasting time, but when I quizzed them the next class period on their first reading assignment and 80% of my students got full credit on the quiz, I figured it was well worth it.  I try hard to get the kids into the book before they ever open the first page.  Given, with some books it's easier than others.

While reading Lord of the Flies we have had some great discussions about the way our society works.  Does there always have to be a "Jack"- the jerk leader?  Does there have to be a "Piggy"- the kid who everybody makes fun of?  Why does our society insist we have these roles and is this inevitable?  I love seeing these kids thinking deeply about things they have always accepted... our society, our culture, the way their social groups run.

Because age is such a factor in the book, we filled out a paper yesterday on what ages we are allowed to do certain things, like rent a car, see an R rated movie, or drink alcohol.  We talked about whether or not we agree with these age limits, which ones should be lowered or raised, and why age restrictions are necessary in society.  All agreed they were necessary (for example, no one thought a 10 year old should be able to own a gun or a 13 year old able to have an abortion) but what they couldn't agree on was at what age.  Our foreign exchange student from Italy informed us that their legal drinking age is 16.  Cray Cray!

Juniors:  They finished Tuesdays with Morrie last week and I just finished grading their tests today.   This and The Great Gatsby are my students' favorites of the year.  I enjoy teaching Tuesdays because it's an easy read and I don't have to do cartwheels and handstands to get the students to finish the reading.

In one section of the book, Morrie talks about living life as if there were a bird on our shoulder constantly asking us "Is today the day?"  The point is to live life to the fullest, to get everything in while you can, to not take the day for granted.  After we read this part, I give the students cut out birds and have them color and decorate them.  Then they paperclip the birdies to their collar.  The assignment is to wear the bird for as long as they can and every time they feel it or see it or have somebody ask about it they are to remember the purpose of the assignment and ask themselves "Is today the day"?  Some hate the assignment, but others love it.  I tell them it's okay if they take the bird off, but then they have to explain to me why they did that.  Was appearance and what other people thought so important that they choose to cave into those societal pressures?  It makes them think deeper about not only living life with purpose, but on the role that appearance has in society and the deep desire we have to be accepted by our peers.

Next up- Scarlet Letter.  Someone help me!

Funniest moment:  A fellow 11th grade teacher was complaining to the junior team about the beast of a research paper that we have to assign the students.  He lamented that none of his students did the paper, and in fact they all viciously hated him for assigning it.  I couldn't help but laugh when he whined, "I mean, I had a kid call me an asshole!  It might be true, but it just isn't polite to say it out loud!"

Sophomores:  We are more than halfway done with October Sky.  Here's my issue with the book- it's written by a scientist, not a writer.  Homer Hickham, "Sonny", is a rocket scientist who decided to write a memoir about his experiences getting into rockets as a young boy.  The book is in dire need of a good editor- there are key details to the story lost between paragraphs and pages of useless details and boring descriptions.  I cut the reading big time for my students- basically just giving them the highlights.  This is one of the rare instances where I find the movie to be much better than the book.

Yesterday we had the "sex talk".  Sonny loses his virginity to a girl he doesn't care about after his longtime crush starts going out with his brother (Still with me?)  I know I could skip this part of the book, but Sonny's reactions to the girls in his life and his way of dealing with heartbreak are pretty common.  And kids totally relate.  We talk about Sonny's desire for acceptance, for love, for some kind of validation.  We talked about how we do stupid things when we are upset and vulnerable.  When I asked why Sonny slept with the girl even though he didn't like her one kid said, "She was pretty and she was willing.  That's all it takes for a dude."  While a lot of students agreed with this, some were adamant that not all guys are this way and they shouldn't be stereotyped that way.  Always makes for interesting discussion and I am impressed how mature my sophomores were throughout the whole discussion.  Only an occasional uncomfortable snicker.

Because October Sky is a memoir, the students are writing their own "mini memoirs."  This is a paper that I genuinely enjoy reading and it is always good for me to get to know my students better through this assignment.  Some tell me about cruises and grandma's house and their cabin in the mountains.  Others tell me about drug abuse and losing parents and depression.  Their experiences vary greatly, and it is so eye opening for me to read these.  I always end up wishing I would have done it earlier in the year- to give me more understand and sympathy for the young bucks.

Funniest moment: I overheard the most hilarious conversation by a bubbly, popular cheerleader and a small, shy boy.  "Oh my gosh, don't you just love Justin Beiber?" she said to him.  He was listening, but not responding, so she obviously took this as her cue to continue without stop, "I seriously just love him so much.  I listen to his music ALL the time.  I'm serious.  I only listen to other music once in a blue moon.  Once in a blue moon!  I told my mom straight up, "Mom!  I am IN LOVE with Justin Beiber!  In love!  I would give anything if he would kiss me and I could get a picture and then oh my gosh-  profile picture!  Even if I was married, I wouldn't care!  I would just love it if he would kiss me.  Have you seen me wearing my Justin Beiber shirt?  I'll have to wear it for you! Remind me tomorrow to wear it.  Haven't you even tried listening to him? He's seriously the best- I think you would like him  I even know his birthday. It is March 1, 1994 and his middle name is Drew.  We are going to have a birthday party for him if you want to come...."  I grabbed my pen and frantically started jotting everything that was coming out of her mouth.  The poor kid just sat there, wide eyed, listening to all that crap.  He shot me a couple of  looks and we exchanged knowing smiles.

Ah, cheerleaders.  They never let you down.

And that's a wrap!  My copy of Gone Girl came in the mail yesterday- can't wait to get reading!  Remember, that discussion will take place on February 27 so get reading!


  1. This almost makes me wish I had stayed a Secondary English Ed major...I love these books. The Scarlet Letter is one of my favorites. That and The Crucible were probably my two favorites from high school!

  2. I love the idea of the paperclip bird!

  3. You are adorable... I love your cute outfits! Also, I am so glad I don't teach high school!! hahaha.
    <3 we miss you in cambridge, I especially miss your awesome lessons!

  4. I seriously wanted to be an English teacher, when I was considering what major to pursue in college. Your blog makes me want to go for it again!

    And I LOVED Lord of the Flies in high school. It had such potential for depth, and fortunately my English teacher took it there.

  5. Oh wow, I wish I had an English teacher like you when I was in high school. It's so warming to see that some teachers are so interested and deeply involved in their students and their student's development - especially in high school which is such a difficult age. I love your ideas too - so creative! I didn't think it was possible to do something new with Lord of the Flies, but that sounds like so much fun.

  6. It sounds like you are an amazing teacher. This entire post made me so excited to start teaching soon.

  7. Um, my English teacher must have burned out because we watched the movie instead of reading the book. The crucible, the scarlet letter, the taming of the shrew, all of them. I guess my point is way to go for trying to get the kids interested instead of giving up.

  8. I love reading about your students! They're lucky to have you--your lessons sound so much fun. I'm a natural reader, so teachers didn't need to do anything to engage me (except I couldn't finish The Scarlet Letter...), but I know I'm more of an exception. I really think it's great how you're tying in real life with books. Good literature teaches universal lessons, and I love that your students are learning such.

    Teeny tiny comment that I can't resist because I'm a very vocal feminist. This probably wouldn't even cross your students' minds because they're young, but they think they're all old enough to be having sex, and sadly they might even know people who started having sex at 13... But why shouldn't a thirteen-year-old be able to have an abortion?

    From a maturity viewpoint, I can understand requiring parental consent for an abortion... But from a logical perspective, if her parents are so checked out of her life that she got pregnant at 13, it might not be safe for her to tell her parents. Regardless of needing an adult to accompany her or not, a pregnant teenager needs safe and legal access to abortion more so than a pregnant 20-something.

    Furthermore, a thirteen-year-old isn't capable of consenting to sex, which means a pregnant thirteen-year-old was raped. Most pro-life advocates even believe in exceptions for rape victims.

    I know abortion is a very sensitive topic, and you probably have legal issues about how much you're allowed to discuss it with your students. I just think it could have used more critical analysis.

  9. The meaning behind each book is truly inspirational and even better, its funny to see how teenagers react to social acceptance.

    And poor shy boy, I bet he wished he had a loaded gun to just pop her off with. I mean really, a birthday? At least she isn't cutting herself or puking because the Beibs smokes pot. All in all, I don't get the craze over him.

  10. Ok seriously my transfer papers will be delivered to the district first thing after school tomorrow!! I love reading about your students and I totally do the "crazy' lessons just to get them into reading!!

  11. I love the yellow with teal outfit (so happy)!
    Glad that your kids are enjoying Lord of the Flies. I didn't like it in high school, but I know a lot of people did. It can create interesting discussions, though, which is ultimately the point.
    I love the idea of having your students write their own memoirs after reading October Sky. I'd imagine those would be really interesting to read.
    Can't wait to hear what you think of Gone Girl. I'd already read it with my book club that I'm in, but can't wait to discuss it with more people here!

  12. I can't wait to see what you think of Gone Girl!

  13. I STILL haven't been able to get my hands on a copy of Gone Girl. I'm wondering if I need to shell out the $25 to Barnes and Noble to get a copy. :(

    I read Lord of the Flies in class when I was in 5th grade. FIFTH! I was ten. TEN! While with most books we read at my school, I'm glad we read them at younger ages because it showed that we could do it. But Lord of the Flies... I feel like I would have appreciated it more when I was in Jr. High or High School. When I was ten I was just too grossed out by it. My teacher did her best, and some of the activities we did were good, but I just didn't appreciate the book at such a young age.

    One of these days I might have to pick your brain about how you talk about sex with the teenagers. I talk about it one-on-one or in small groups when it comes up with the youth I work with, but in a larger setting I just haven't found a way that I like yet. I HATE HATE HATE how most churches address that topic, and while I know you are in a public school and all, so it's completely different, I wouldn't mind hearing your thoughts. You seem to address it so well and in a way they really respond!

  14. Anonymous9:11 AM

    Work pants are the WORST. I fully validate your feelings on that one.

    You sound like such a fun English teacher!


  15. I would LOVE to be in your class! I'm such a book nerd and all of your lessons seem like fun! I actually started Gone Girl last night--I'm already hooked 2 chapters in!

  16. hey we met last night! are you an english teacher? That is my major!

  17. I really enjoyed lord of the flies when I read it. We read that sophomore year along with the great gatsby and a separate peace and I remember liking all the book selections that year, but I'm blanking on the others. My best friend is a high school teacher and I live hearing her hallway stories, I'm sure they keep you entertained!

  18. You are totally adorable! And Lord of the Flies is one of my all time favorite books. It's soooooo good!!!! I think you've inspired me to read it again. :)

  19. I was never too inspired to teach LOTF because I didn't really care for it myself. Keep us updated on how it goes, please.

    Also, I like the bird idea with TWM. I may be stealing that in the future. I did a "silent walk" around the school with my students after Morrie talks about how we "sleepwalk" through life. Students took a clipboard and paper and weren't allowed to talk, just observe and write down things they noticed that in their nine/ten years [we have a large campus k-12] of being at the school they hadn't noticed. We came back to the room and the list we formed was astounding and it made them realize how the monotony and/or our own preoccupations every day keep us from noticing things all around us.

    [And I may have been shunned by all cheerleaders in my class when I went on a little rant about the grammar in JB's song: "If I WAS your boyfriend" …WERE, JB! WERE. The SENIOR cheerleader that has Beiber bedding in her room did not appreciate that lesson ;) ]

  20. Oh my goodness... I can totaly hear that girls voice in my head RAVING about Justin Beiber. Cheerleaders... they really never do let you down. I'm gald you didn't skip over that part of October Sky AND Tuesdays With Morrie and The Great Gatsby are books that I finally made myself read this year and LOVED. So happy to stumble upon your blog. This post alone gave me a few laughs! :)

  21. Bonnie, if I had a teenaged kid I would find out where you live and then move there so that my kid could learn from you! Honestly, speaking as a voracious reader with a deep love of all things literary, if I had an English teacher like you in high school, I think I may have gone down a very different path! Reading a post like this gives me so much hope, so you just keep on keepin' on!

  22. About drinking ages...
    I actually grew up in Germany, and the legal drinking age there is 14. You can't buy your own alcohol until you are 16 for beer or 18 for hard liquor.

    But, the trade off as compared to America is that German kids don't drive until they are 18. Before they can even test for their license they have to go through a long and intensive driving course.

    I think it is interesting to see the difference in legal ages in different cultures and how they affect the people.

    I would actually be all for the lowering of the drinking age in America to 18. I think it is ridiculous that you can risk your life for our country, but you can't buy a beer. Just my two cents...

    P.S. You sound like an amazing teacher!

  23. I just wanted to say that I completely agree with you about work pants. They're too big, too small, too widening and either way too long or way too short. Terrible.

    And I was homeschooled K-12 so it's neat to see what students in "real school" learn. I think I'm going to have to start reading some of those books!

  24. My copy of gone girl just showed up! Woot!!

  25. I love all 3 of your outfits! You`re beyond cute :)

    Also, your blog is my new favourite. You`re so genuine and I can always relate to all of your posts. I always have to check out your blog everyday or my day feels incomplete haha.

    Keep it up :)

  26. i struggle with work pants frumpy is a good word. my body shape just wasn't meant for them, i guess. yet i still keep buying them, thinking someday i'll find a perfect pair that i just love.

    hasn't happened yet.

    although i did get 2 new pairs a few weeks ago from kohls (daisy fuentes brand). and they are the best pairs i've found so far.

  27. I loved Tuesday's with Morrie!! I didn't read it until college.