Every time I write one of these posts I say, It's been too long since I have written one of these! I guess all my classroom posts got booted right out the door when I started doing Bachelor recaps? Listen, I don't understand the way it works either. But have no fear, Bachelor is almost over and then we can go back to talking classroom shenanigans all we want. Hallelujah!
My AP class is starting to feel a little bit more pressure as we go into spring. The AP Lit test is two months from tomorrow. It always blows my mind how we start the year and we're like, "Ah we got nine months to study for this bad boy!" and then all of a sudden we only have two months left. In any case, I feel like the kids are prepared or on their way to be being prepared by May so I try not to stress out too much, and I try not to stress them out. I think that's important. I remember having teachers in high school who were always so stressed about looming tests that I felt like they were implying that they had no hope in our ability as students to pass them. Now, looking on the other end, I know that my worries come not from the students' ability, but from if I have done everything I could to prepare them. Sometimes being an educator feels so daunting.
We just finished reading Catcher in the Rye a few weeks ago. There are so many great things to discuss with Catcher. It's one of my top five personal favorite books so I feel very grateful that I get to choose the curriculum for AP and that my principal is so great about supporting teachers in the material they choose to teach, even if it might be a tad controversial. Here are some of the things we discussed with Catcher in the Rye:
- Censorship. Should a book like Catcher in the Rye be censored? The language is horrible (although many students argue no worse than what they hear in the halls), there is sex (or at least, talk of sex), drinking, smoking, etc. At what point do we censor books and why? I was impressed this year with the conversation that came from it. There were A LOT of different view points, but the one thing all students seemed to agree on is that books with messages of hate or crime against certain groups of people have no place in a high school. I thought that was interesting as students in past years have never even considered that.
- The purpose of slang. One of my favorite conversations that comes when we do Catcher in the Rye is what is the purpose of slang in our society. Who uses slang (primarily young people) and why (to distinguish themselves from parents, teachers, etc) and what makes slang words come in and out. Students had to find 20 slang words or expressions from the book and identify from the context what the meaning was. Then they had to work together in groups to come up with a list of the 20 most popular slang words among their age group today. I LOVED this discussion. The kids were all about it, too. I guess they've always had a hidden desire to educate their teacher on their vernacular and how to properly use their words. I learned all the hip new slang like savage, same, bye felicia. You know, all the good stuff.
- Holden as a morally ambiguous character. I really loved this discussion this year. The kids seemed to take it deeper than they ever have before. At the beginning of the book I tell students that as they read they need to decide whether or not they think Holden Caulfield is a good person. Of course, this challenges their notions of what it means to be "a good person." Holden is a 17 year old protagonist who swears like a sailor, calls a prostitute, drinks and smokes day and night, drops out of school, etc. On the surface it's very easy to say that he has no morals. But a closer look at Holden and there is so much more going on to him. He cares deeply for his family, has never fully recovered from the death of his brother, wants to love and be loved but doesn't know how. He is always kind to women and children, and the people who bother him the most are the privileged boys who go to his school and treat other people poorly or never have to work for anything. The title Catcher in the Rye is one big metaphor for Holden's desire to protect the innocence of children (to literally be someone who catches children who are playing in a field of rye from falling off the edge). Ah, just talking about it I want to start the unit all over again and teach it again.
One thing for certain, the kids all love reading Catcher in the Rye. The easy language is a welcome switch from the dialect of Their Eyes Were Watching God and the old English of Othello. We usually fly through this book. It doesn't hurt that it's only 200 pages. If any of you haven't read it, I encourage you to and then tell me what you think. I think you will really love it!