Today, in the middle of 9th period, Adam looked out the window, and screamed, "It's snowing!" We all turned and looked, and fell entranced by the scene - millions of huge snowflakes, stretched as far as the eye could see, set against the backdrop of an unkempt football field overlooking unkempt Baltimore. And most strangely, the sun was shining like it was the middle of July. We stared for a while. Some kids jumped out of their seats to look closer. We flung the windows open to let the flakes blow in. And we stared and stared.
Because we just read How to Read Literature Like a Professor, we wondered what the weather might symbolize. If it were a storm, and if life were a gothic novel like Frankenstein (which we're starting Monday), then it would signal that something sinister would happen. But a sunny snowstorm? Not sure about that. When a student explained that the snowy snowstorm was a bit of a paradox, I was in English teacher nerd heaven.
After school, we had another one those American Literature debates that I've had since I started teaching. We have to add some intercultural readings to our curriculum. We talk about some absolutely ridiculous stuff, like adding Phyllis Wheatley to our "Beginnings" unit to show that we're "multicultural". That sort of artificial tokenism just bugs the crap out of me. The fact is, it's impossible to do this sort of thing in any meaningful way to a curriculum that is built on chronology, simply because it was almost all white males who were writing for the first couple centuries of American Literature.
My problems with a chronologic curriculum are many-fold. The fact that it's all about studying literary movements, instead of fostering lifelong readers. The fact that the course seems geared to kids who want to become English majors. The fact that the 20th century (heck, and the 21st century) get incredibly short shrift. The fact that the first several months of the course are so dull. The fact that so much of the literature is inaccessible for reluctant readers. The fact that it's not really chronology, but rather our idea of what chronology is, that we've picked and chosen what we want to and then moved on. The fact that this is not history class, it's English class. The fact that the most contemporary novel we teach is Their Eyes Were Watching God (1937).
It doesn't make sense for me to structure a literature course for 15-year olds like a history course would be structured. I like big ideas, core questions, and unit questions.
Well, today, after several years of battle (this is an exaggeration... I battled after my first year of teaching it, and when we restructured curriculum years ago, but I didn't care again until I was teaching it), I finally might have seen a shift. A compromise of Thematic, but chronologic within the themes. This wouldn't pretend to be all-emcompassing. It would, perhaps, make me happy as well as others happy. I'm excited. I will keep this blog updated with the progress. Maybe I don't have to put "Anything but English 2" on my course requests for next year.
Minor Moves: Velazquez, Bell - We'll keep track of today's minor moves here. The Marlins have signed infielder Gil Velazquez, Juan C. Rodriguez of the Sun Sentinel reports (on Twitter). Ve...
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