The Life of Bon: What We Did in Class This Week + What I Wore

Friday, September 18, 2015

What We Did in Class This Week + What I Wore

It's time for the return of what we did in class this week!  This is always one of my favorite posts to write.  Last year I felt a bit off my jam when it came to teaching, getting dressed, writing on my blog.... everything really.  We were adjusting to a lot of newness as a family and then there was the nursing wardrobe which really cramped my style.  I felt like I could never dress cute because everything had to be low, buttoned, loose, layered.  Yea for being done nursing!  (But boo for the return of my flat chest.  You can't have your cake and eat it too, you know.)


Those are the eyes of a woman who just taught four straight 85 minute classes full of teenagers.  
I wonder if I did the ultimate kamikaze move by giving up my prep period?
Also, hats off to elementary teachers who never get prep periods.

Outfit details:  
Cardigan: Gap//  Blouse: Thrifted//  Shoes: Gap// Skirt: JC Penny (I got that skirt six years ago when I first started teaching) Watch: Jord

This year I am teaching two classes of regular junior English and two classes of AP Literature.  I really love teaching a class twice- you don't have time to get sick of teaching it yet, but teaching it only once feels like SO MUCH WORK to prepare all the materials for just one class.  I used to think three was the perfect amount to teach something, but last year I taught three junior classes and got pretty bored by the third go around, so maybe twice is my sweet spot?

My juniors are one day away from finishing The Crucible.  My school district likes us to teach junior English (American Literature) in chronological order which means that we start with Puritan type stuff- The Crucible, Scarlet Letter.  I struggle with this because those texts are extremely difficult for regular kids, and I don't like to start out with the hard hard stuff.  Kids are still shuffling in and out of class and they don't quite trust you yet.  If I had my way I would teach The Crucible in January- it would give us time to do some scaffolding and reading of other texts to prepare them for Crucible.  Also they would trust me.  It's so much easier to teach second semester- kids buy in to your system, they no longer believe that you're just trying to screw them over, they understand your systems and procedures.  I feel like if I save the difficult texts for when they 1) trust me and 2) are used to the structure of the class, I have a lot more success.

BUT as teaching Crucible in January definitely doesn't work for chronological teaching of American Lit, I bite the bullet and start teaching it the second week of school.  This year I have seriously debated just scrapping Crucible altogether.  It is such a hard text with so many characters.  It requires a very good understanding of the time period, and if kids miss a day of reading they are pretty much screwed.  There are so many nuances in the text that kids can easily miss if I don't point them out.  We read the whole thing together in class and I feel like I am stopping them every two lines, "Did you see that?"  "What does that mean?"  "What is he referring to when he says that?"  "Why is she upset?"  It is exhausting for me and the students, and I still don't know if they are really understanding.  It takes us close to an entire class period to read 20 pages together and I feel like I've sucked the fun out of their souls.

If I stopped teaching Crucible then I would need some other work of literature to sub in for the Puritan era.  Scarlet Letter is an obvious choice, but is an even tougher read than The Crucible and I'm afraid it would just totally kill off my students if I started in on Scarlet Letter right back from summer break.  Their minds aren't in reading shape yet, you know?  My other option would be to scrap a longer work of literature altogether and just read short stories and essays about the time period.  I dread doing this because here's my confession, I am not a good teacher when I don't have a book or play that we are working on.  A book just gives so much structure to the class and makes it so easy to teach all of the standards- reading, writing, speaking, listening- all of it is so much easier when we are studying a piece of literature.  Thinking about going several weeks without teaching a book terrifies me simply because I don't know how.  I don't know how I would fill all that time or how I would find enough to talk about.

LASTLY an issue that I've had with Crucible this year that I've never ever had before is I've had kids complaining about the separation of church and state issue.  There's a part where the reverend asks John Proctor to name the 10 commandments to see how "worthy" he is.  I always have students try to list off how many they know to see if they'd pass Salem's "standards of righteousness".  Usually kids really like this and think it's fun.  This year they complained- one student said it made her really uncomfortable and one muttered under her breath while we were doing it that "this isn't Sunday School."  I tried to explain to them that we can study religions and religious beliefs without it being Sunday School- I was not implying that they should be living the ten commandments, merely asking them if they had a basic knowledge of Christian beliefs and knew any of the ten commandments.  I mean, yes, I get it, separation of church and state but how in the world do you teach early American Literature without mentioning God?  They are Puritans!  Everything they did, said, and thought revolved around their beliefs in God, so yah, we kinda gotta talk about religion.  Especially in The Crucible... the reverends, the turning yourself over to Satan, the trying to please God, etc, etc, etc. You simply can't teach the book without teaching a basic "this is what Christians believe."  Sigh.

SO... long story short I am really struggling with teaching The Crucible this year.  I'd love to axe it completely, but don't know what would take its place for next year.  I see the reasoning behind my district wanting to teach American Literature chronologically- it makes the most sense and aligns with what junior history teachers are teaching.  It is the ideal way to teach.  BUT, I think for regular juniors it might not be so ideal.  Junior options at my school for English classes are: AP Language, Honors English, and Regular English.  I definitely think that an Honors language class should be taught chronologically.  These kids have had success with reading in the past, usually enjoy literature to some extent, and can probably jump in to Crucible or Scarlet Letter early on in the school year without it being too difficult.  But for regular juniors, many of whom have never enjoyed reading, not passed English classes in the past, and are generally suspicious of English teachers, I feel like they'd benefit from establishing a relationship with the teacher and getting some other more manageable texts under their belts before attempting Purtian literature.  I just don't think we're doing them any favors starting with Crucible.  I also have a handful of students in each class who are not native English speakers and struggle with basic comprehension- I fear we're killing them off very quickly with old John Proctor over here.

If I had my choice I'd start regular junior English off with Of Mice and Men.  It's a short book (barely over 100 pages) which always wins students' affection immediately.  There are interesting characters, manageable text and dialogue, and themes that are really easy to understand and talk about.  It yields great discussion and kids always have a strong opinion about this book.  Some hate it, but they love that they hate it, you know?  I feel like this is a perfect book to help students trust literature and their literature teachers.

Um... I was going to tell you what my AP Lit classes have been working on too, but by now my blog writing time is far spent.  I'll give you a glimpse into our AP classroom next week.  Also, I am going  to start doing these What We Did in Class posts every two weeks instead of every month so that it is a more manageable post to write.  Ok?  Ok.  Now go have a great weekend!  And if you think about it, tell me a solution to my Puritan/Crucible/Scarlet Letter problem!  Grazi!

Around the Web:
+ Can't think of a more worthwhile cause of the whole internet than this one.  So proud to be a (little) part of this.  Not all agree with me that it's still a major problem in our country, but I definitely think it is and it's something I'm proud to fight for.
+ My blogging bestie, Taylor, had me laughing out loud this week when making fun on Instagram and the way we all buy in to it.  She's a genius.  A hilarious little genius.
+ Brooke breaks down why your facebook posts aren't reaching very many people in this post.  Want to know how to increase your reach?  She's got you covered.  (After reading this I am kind of shocked.  I need to change basically everything about the way I promote my blog on facebook.)
+ Started crying when I was reading this article about marriage.  I agree with so much of it and disagree with so much of it.
+ Would you ever make something like this for dinner?  I'm desperate for easy dinner suggestions around here.

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