This week was honestly one of the best of my career. I received word that 100% of my students -- I teach our entire load of seniors taking IB English -- passed the IB English assessments. 100%.
The reason I like the International Baccalaureate English program so much is that it really assesses everything about English class that is important. Unlike AP, which is just multiple choice (ugh) and timed writing, IB assesses not only timed writing (thankfully no multiple choice), but also untimed writing, untimed-preparation oral presentations, and timed oral commentaries. These six assessments, I feel, really prepare a kid for college and for life. Add in a curriculum that has plenty of teacher choice and international focus, and we have a great program. I really want to teach in the IB program the rest of my career. It's not about advanced kids -- IB is designed to work for any regular kid -- but it's about a great program with a worldly focus and rigorous, but authentic, assessments.
This year, for Part II, I taught two Shakespeare plays (Richard III and Much Ado About Nothing), James Baldwin's essays (for the non-fiction component), Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon. This is the more classicist part of the curriculum, but it's not that classicist -- James Baldwin is one of my options. He's been the biggest revelation to my teaching the last couple of years; his non-fictions essays brim with passion and fury, and the kids really like him.
For Part III, with comes from a list of writers that is more broad than Part II, I taught the Australian novel Cloudstreet (Tim Winton), the Indian novel The White Tiger (Aravind Adiga), the Antiguan-American novel Lucy (Jamaica Kincaid), and the South African novel July's People (Nadine Gordimer). This was my first year teaching most of these novels, but they worked well. Cloudstreet is a beautiful, soaring novel, one that is hard to describe but really got me in the gut. Lucy is a small and bitter little book, but Kincaid's writing is gorgeous; my more vocal students complained about this one, thinking the narrator was too self-absorbed, but, for me, she was a typical teenager, and many kids liked it. I thought it was about perfect. I didn't enjoy July's People, but Gordimer's style lends itself so well to analysis of structure and language that it would be hard to take out. It's not really meant to be an enjoyable read, either; the protagonist's disorientation mirrors the reader's. And The White Tiger, my one repeat teach, continues to be one of the favorites of the year for the students. It's a funny and dark page-turner that most of the kids love. I brought these four books together under the theme of economic disparity, but we found a lot more themes as we read - the effects of parenting, the repercussions of colonialism, master/servant dynamics. The kids went along for the ride with me and, obviously, did well.
Anyhow, I'm pretty happy, and very proud of my students. The only problem is, the only direction to go now is down. :)
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