Ask an English teacher!

The school experience. School related queries, discussions, and stories that aren't specific to a subject.

Moderators: gmalivuk, Moderators General, Prelates

User avatar
unus vox
Posts: 135
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:01 pm UTC

Ask an English teacher!

Postby unus vox » Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:04 pm UTC

Greetings!

As implied by the title, I am an English teacher. That is not to say I am a particularly good one, but I am one nonetheless. In this thread, I implore you to ask me a question. Any question. Really, I don't care if it's about English or not. I will do my best to answer.

Ready, set, go.
Spoiler:
Image

Two-Fry
Posts: 124
Joined: Wed Jul 08, 2009 12:29 am UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby Two-Fry » Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:11 pm UTC

What is the point of forcing students to study century old writings that have virtually no relation to modern times? Don't such exercises turn the enjoyable activity of reading into a chore? Also, isn't it a form of structured cultural repression because it forces the culture that older people value onto the younger generation, making it harder for new forms of writing and self expression to arise?
podbaydoor wrote:^What this person said.

User avatar
Bakemaster
pretty nice future dick
Posts: 8933
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 2:33 pm UTC
Location: One of those hot places

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby Bakemaster » Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:22 pm UTC

How can you define "new forms of writing and self expression" without first having a definition of existing and past forms?

(Not to steal the OP's thunder.)
Image
c0 = 2.13085531 × 1014 smoots per fortnight
"Apparently you can't summon an alternate timeline clone of your inner demon, guys! Remember that." —Noc

User avatar
unus vox
Posts: 135
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:01 pm UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby unus vox » Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:51 pm UTC

Two-Fry wrote:What is the point of forcing students to study century old writings that have virtually no relation to modern times? Don't such exercises turn the enjoyable activity of reading into a chore? Also, isn't it a form of structured cultural repression because it forces the culture that older people value onto the younger generation, making it harder for new forms of writing and self expression to arise?


First, I'll have to disagree that older texts necessarily have little or no relevance to the modern day. If you're referring to a story's plot, characters, or themes, I'd argue that it's nearly impossible for such things to be outdated. Part of the reason Shakespeare is so widely read and taught is because of his texts' enduring qualities. Love, jealousy, war, revenge, death, and other topics are exhibited in his works, all of which have a certain timelessness to them. The language may be a hindrance, but it's not always about the language - it's about what is conveyed.

Now, if we're going to focus on the language (which tends to be the issue with older works), that's a bit different. Language usage certainly changes over time, but I wouldn't go so far as to say it ever becomes irrelevant (and certainly not counterproductive). Writers from the 17th or 16th century did have remarkably different grammatical tendencies, but different does not mean irrelevant. The writing can still be eloquent, sophisticated, and fiercely intelligent. You might argue, then, "Why don't we just study intelligent and eloquent writing from the modern day?" And, simply put, we do. However, studying literature from one historical period is less beneficial your understanding of the language. Be able to interpret and analyze literature from drastically different writing styles is like push-ups for your brain: no pain, no gain. Those who seriously study older literature gain a better acquisition of language than if they did not; be able to view the parts of language from multiple perspectives is just good practice.

As for cultural repression, I'm sorry to say that sounds a little angst ridden to me. If anything, studying texts from only the modern day would be cultural repression, and we are denying others the opportunity of a cultural history. "Repression" is a sort of forceful withholding, whereas school introduces you to literature. You are more than free (encouraged, even) to pursue texts that interest you outside of the classroom. Unfortunately, learning involves some weightlifting, and some weightlifting requires heavy weights.

Oh! I just realized I never responded to the notion of "value" that you mentioned. As I tell my students, I can't and won't force them to enjoy anything. Everyone has their own tastes and opinions. And I think you're equating value with enjoyment, which are two very different ideas. To value something is simply to acknowledge its worth and give respect where respect is due. Personally, I don't like Charles Dickins' writing - I find it too drawn out and bland. But I value his influence on literature and his ability to use the language masterfully. Consequently, learning and valuing older works will never impede progress and individuality. This applies to just about anything. (Unless you're a mindless zombie who only knows how to mimic what's in front of him ... which I'm sure you aren't.)
Spoiler:
Image

User avatar
unus vox
Posts: 135
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:01 pm UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby unus vox » Sat Jan 30, 2010 8:05 pm UTC

Bakemaster wrote:How can you define "new forms of writing and self expression" without first having a definition of existing and past forms?

(Not to steal the OP's thunder.)


Indeed! By turning our back on the past and its achievements, how could we learn from them?
Spoiler:
Image

User avatar
Ventanator
Posts: 158
Joined: Thu Mar 26, 2009 10:22 pm UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby Ventanator » Sun Jan 31, 2010 12:27 am UTC

Would you suggest becoming an english teacher to a high school student who enjoys english? Do you make enough money to live comfortable? How is it?

User avatar
unus vox
Posts: 135
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:01 pm UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby unus vox » Sun Jan 31, 2010 12:42 am UTC

Ventanator wrote:Would you suggest becoming an english teacher to a high school student who enjoys english? Do you make enough money to live comfortable? How is it?


As someone who is not concerned with money, I'd have to say the salary is fine. A lone teacher's salary might not be enough to support a family in a house, but aside from that I find it quite satisfactory. And as an entry level position, it has a relatively high salary.

As far as its enjoyability, I think it's a great way to avoid a stagnant 9-5 job. Rather than going through the motions of a work day, you're in a dynamic atmosphere and have the opportunity to get as creative as you like. I didn't so much go into the job because I like literature or language; I went into it because I like teaching, and English happens to be what I'm good at. I say this because I promise very few (if any) of your students would have the same enthusiasm as you do.

I'd suggest going into the field if you A) Really care about education, B) Can be organized and responsible, and C) Have a strong will. I'm still working on (B), but I think those are the essential qualities that could get you through the job. And, of course, these things can be learned. I suppose the best advice I can give you is to go for it if you think you'd really enjoy it. Nothing is more important than enjoying what you do!
Spoiler:
Image

User avatar
Dthen
Still hasn't told us what comes after D
Posts: 553
Joined: Sat Jan 02, 2010 6:35 pm UTC
Location: Ayrshire, Scotland

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby Dthen » Sun Jan 31, 2010 12:52 am UTC

If we abbreviate a word ending with an s, such as mathematics or applications, should we retain the ending s or drop it?
Dthen wrote:I AM NOT A CAT.

User avatar
unus vox
Posts: 135
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:01 pm UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby unus vox » Sun Jan 31, 2010 1:01 am UTC

Dthen wrote:If we abbreviate a word ending with an s, such as mathematics or applications, should we retain the ending s or drop it?


That's a good question. Really, it depends where you are. People in the UK, for example, would say "maths" while people in the US would say "math." I can see the argument for both sides. On one hand, if you're truncating the word by removing the latter half, you'd be removing the "s" as well. And yet, if the word is meant to be plural, it should stay that way.

Although, when you get right down to it, it's really just a matter of what others are used to hearing. Abbreviations are casual in nature, so the addition of an "s" is arguably a personal preference.
Spoiler:
Image

User avatar
Bakemaster
pretty nice future dick
Posts: 8933
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 2:33 pm UTC
Location: One of those hot places

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby Bakemaster » Mon Feb 01, 2010 3:50 pm UTC

At what point in a student's education do you believe it best to introduce the concept of style guides, and following different conventions in the use of things like the Oxford comma or punctuation around quote marks? Should elementary school teachers stop teaching young kids that one convention or another is absolutely correct, considering the confusion that arises when they encounter different conventions outside of school—and particularly when different teachers teach different style guides—or do you believe this to be a matter best left out of the curriculum until a certain age or grade level?
Image
c0 = 2.13085531 × 1014 smoots per fortnight
"Apparently you can't summon an alternate timeline clone of your inner demon, guys! Remember that." —Noc

User avatar
unus vox
Posts: 135
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:01 pm UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby unus vox » Mon Feb 01, 2010 9:19 pm UTC

Bakemaster wrote:At what point in a student's education do you believe it best to introduce the concept of style guides, and following different conventions in the use of things like the Oxford comma or punctuation around quote marks? Should elementary school teachers stop teaching young kids that one convention or another is absolutely correct, considering the confusion that arises when they encounter different conventions outside of school—and particularly when different teachers teach different style guides—or do you believe this to be a matter best left out of the curriculum until a certain age or grade level?


Now we're treading on Academia's most feared intersection: Pretentious Ave. and Vague St.

I want to note that style guides like MLA, APA, or Chicago do not exist for any other reason than convenience. More specifically, convenience for the reader. (Oh look, a sentence fragment! *nerd rage*) In essays, reports, and any sort of paper that is to be taken seriously, style guides help 1) discern the sources of given information, 2) determine the validity of said information, and 3) establish consistency in writing mechanics that might otherwise by up-in-the-air. Of course, all of these things venture into the territory of "nitpicky," and I'll be the first to admit that when you get right down to it, style guides are not necessary. But in the professional world, consistent rules and expectations are a huge factor in performance, and at the very least, having an understanding of varying rule-sets will better prepare us to meet such expectations.

That said, I believe the best time to introduce students to a style guide is the first time they write a paper within that style's field. For MLA style, I suggest the first time students write a substantial literary critique in which they must cite from the literature. This tends to happen toward the end of middle school or early in high school. Similarly, I suggest students learn APA style whenever they first write a research paper - I'd guess this tends to happen in the middle of high school. I don't think students--even at the college level--should ever be expected to memorize a format. What's the point? If they can follow an outline and plug in the necessary information in the right spots, mission accomplished. And if students enter a field in which they'll be using a style guild, they'll familiarize themselves with that style soon enough.

To expand this issue beyond style guides, I'd like to make a quick note about being taught (formally or informally) contrasting views on language. The main purpose of language, no matter the context, is to communicate. Furthermore, we should seek to communicate as effectively as possible, given the context. In a text message, that means communicating a point efficiently and clearly; I don't care if you use abbrevs. or 13375p34k if the message is there. In a persuasive essay, that means using language as poignantly and intelligently as possible; it is communicating on a higher and deeper level. Thus, conventions change. Writing style changes. And that's why we get conflicting styles and seemingly conflicting teachers: the context changes.

This is why I love English - it's a microcosm of life. People must adapt to their surroundings and cater to their purpose. Survival of the fittest often means evolving. Thus, we evolve from text message to essay, essay to MLA style, MLA style to dissertation, and then talking about our dissertation in a txt mssg.
Spoiler:
Image

User avatar
BlackSails
Posts: 5315
Joined: Thu Dec 20, 2007 5:48 am UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby BlackSails » Tue Feb 02, 2010 12:19 am UTC

unus vox wrote:I want to note that style guides like MLA, APA, or Chicago do not exist for any other reason than convenience.


Yeah, so? If on a math test, I asked you for the taylor expansion of e^x, and you gave me "x&N(N, N#0!inf)", you would be wrong. It doesnt matter if you then told me "Oh, I reject your conventions and substitute my own terminology! X&N=x^n, x(N = x/N, and N#0!inf means N from 0 to infinity!"

You write so other people can read it, not so you can read it.

User avatar
unus vox
Posts: 135
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:01 pm UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby unus vox » Tue Feb 02, 2010 12:29 am UTC

BlackSails wrote:
unus vox wrote:I want to note that style guides like MLA, APA, or Chicago do not exist for any other reason than convenience.


Yeah, so? If on a math test, I asked you for the taylor expansion of e^x, and you gave me "x&N(N, N#0!inf)", you would be wrong. It doesnt matter if you then told me "Oh, I reject your conventions and substitute my own terminology! X&N=x^n, x(N = x/N, and N#0!inf means N from 0 to infinity!"

You write so other people can read it, not so you can read it.


Correct! Please see the sentence that follows, in regard to the reader's convenience. Style guides provide an outline of expected conventions that help the reader understand those 3 points I noted in my post.
Spoiler:
Image

User avatar
Lazar
Landed Gentry
Posts: 2151
Joined: Tue Dec 29, 2009 11:49 pm UTC
Location: Massachusetts

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby Lazar » Tue Feb 02, 2010 12:31 am UTC

A related point, are you dogmatic on split infinitives, sentence-initial conjunctions and sentence-final prepositions?
Exit the vampires' castle.

User avatar
unus vox
Posts: 135
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:01 pm UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby unus vox » Tue Feb 02, 2010 12:41 am UTC

Lazar wrote:A related point, are you dogmatic on split infinitives, sentence-initial conjunctions and sentence-final prepositions?


I wouldn't say I'm too dogmatic about anything, especially not writing style. Those three happen to be perfectly grammatically acceptable when used properly. I think many elementary school teachers try to shun such habits, as it takes a skilled writer to know when they are and aren't effective (and, in some cases, correct). But, as evidenced by my own writing style, I certainly wouldn't avoid them for the sake of "proper" English. If everyone would adhere to that which is considered most grammatically acceptable, there would be very little room for personal voice.

That said, I'll mark when a student is being grammatically incorrect (many seem to have a penchant for starting sentences with a rambling "So"). One must learn to walk before doing a handspring, after all.

On a personal note, I try not to split my infinitives, although doing so sometimes seems more natural; I quite enjoy starting sentences with conjunctions; and I make a conscious effort to avoid ending in prepositions, as it sounds more intelligent not to (OH CRAP).
Spoiler:
Image

User avatar
Ixtellor
There are like 4 posters on XKCD that no more about ...
Posts: 3113
Joined: Sun Jan 13, 2008 3:31 pm UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby Ixtellor » Tue Feb 02, 2010 1:54 pm UTC

What do you think about..

1) A trend at the high school level to teacher young writers to have a 'voice' at the expense of things like grammar, logic, etc.

2) NCLB

3) Do you have a responsibility to your students to be well read? For example have you read every book on your schools approved list -- BEFORE they make it on your district approved lists? Or, how many new books would you say you read per year?

4) Do you feel you do a good job of preparing students to write college papers in which they are expected to prove a point?


Ixtellor

P.S. I am also a teacher, and I find that while I encounter many good writers, they are almost universally terrible at making arguments -- due mostly to NCLB and the whole 'voice' movement thats trendy now.
The Revolution will not be Twitterized.

User avatar
unus vox
Posts: 135
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:01 pm UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby unus vox » Tue Feb 02, 2010 8:37 pm UTC

Ixtellor wrote:What do you think about..

1) A trend at the high school level to teacher young writers to have a 'voice' at the expense of things like grammar, logic, etc.


As a writer, having a voice is a beautiful thing. I'd relate it to having a voice in the literal sense - a unique way to recognize people and their personalities. In fact, I'd say that having a writing voice comes just as naturally as having one's literal voice. And yet, in either case, a student first needs to understand how to speak before his voice can come through. If students don't have a handle on their vocabulary, grammar, conventions, what-have-you, then their creativity and uniqueness are squandered.

A couple of my students know how to avoid a sentence fragment, for example. These are also the students who know when to break this rule for an effective voice in the middle of otherwise proper grammar. For those who unknowingly write sentence frags, I am obligated to correct them. Rules must be understood before bent or broken.

2) NCLB


Assessments should be a reflection of the learning. Education should not be a reflection of the assessment. Everything about NCLB seems counter-intuitive: "If your students can't write this type of essay or answer these multiple guess questions, your school doesn't deserve funding." It's like kicking an injured dog then yelling at him to get up.

That said, the tests in my state (NY) do seem to be representative of what students should know upon commencement. I wouldn't argue that the assessments are unfair. I would, however, argue that a school's lifeline should not hinge upon students' ability to answer a narrow set of questions. Furthermore, one cannot jump to the conclusion that teachers are thus bad and the school needs to simply fix itself.

3) Do you have a responsibility to your students to be well read? For example have you read every book on your schools approved list -- BEFORE they make it on your district approved lists? Or, how many new books would you say you read per year?


I have a responsibility to my students to give them a comprehensive and adequate education. That means being familiar with the literature in a way that facilitates their understanding and analysis of it. There are some books on the curriculum that I've read multiple times and am very familiar with. When possible, I try to choose texts that I know intimately. On the other hand, there is literature that I've read for the first time BECAUSE I'm teaching it. In either case, I try to be adequately prepared with regard to the text and its associated topics. If I can't recall a specific fact or quote that my students bring up, I use that as an indication of being human; I ask them to tell me the page number and I look on with them, then quickly gain an understanding of said passage and continue from there. Not only do we have a responsibility to know the material, but a responsibility to demonstrate the learning process.

4) Do you feel you do a good job of preparing students to write college papers in which they are expected to prove a point?


On my tests and papers, I always ask students to prove their points. I've found that they are reluctant to show textual evidence, but can quickly learn to support their ideas when their grades are on the line. What seems to be most challenging for them is linking their body paragraphs to the thesis and keeping their ideas on target. They easily go off on tangents, eager to show what they know while forgetting what they set out to do. When I tutored in college, I saw undergraduates with the same problem... they don't circle ideas back to the paper's topic. In this way, no I don't think I'm preparing students enough. I think I could always do more with regard to persuasive essays - people need to learn how to properly prove a point in a cogent and succinct way.

P.S. I am also a teacher, and I find that while I encounter many good writers, they are almost universally terrible at making arguments -- due mostly to NCLB and the whole 'voice' movement thats trendy now.


At least in NY State, NCLB isn't a great hindrance to argumentative essays. On our state exams, students are heavily graded on expository writing, so I wouldn't say these two are at odds. I would certainly agree with you that students don't have a satisfactory grasp of basic grammar and writing mechanics at the high school level. I don't blame anything or anyone for that. All I know is that I need to have my students work through the writing process as often as possible.
Spoiler:
Image

User avatar
Allium Cepa
Posts: 249
Joined: Wed Nov 28, 2007 12:46 am UTC
Location: RVA

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby Allium Cepa » Tue Feb 02, 2010 10:27 pm UTC

unus vox wrote:
On a personal note, I try not to split my infinitives, although doing so sometimes seems more natural; I quite enjoy starting sentences with conjunctions; and I make a conscious effort to avoid ending in prepositions, as it sounds more intelligent not to (OH CRAP).


That made me laugh really hard.

I'm in AP English 12 this year, and was in AP English 11 last year. Do you teach AP classes, and even if you haven't, what are your thoughts on them? The tests themselves seem pretty ridiculous, as the grading of essays is completely subjective, and that's a major portion of the AP grade. Also, regarding essays, how much range are you willing to give someone with analysis? Does it matter if it's accepted analysis or not as long as they have textual evidence? And if someone completely analyzes something incorrectly, how can you even determine it's incorrect if English as a whole is so subjective?
Take me back to the day that I went blind, I would like to see your face for one last time.

User avatar
unus vox
Posts: 135
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:01 pm UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby unus vox » Tue Feb 02, 2010 11:26 pm UTC

Allium Cepa wrote: Do you teach AP classes, and even if you haven't, what are your thoughts on them? The tests themselves seem pretty ridiculous, as the grading of essays is completely subjective, and that's a major portion of the AP grade.


I don't teach AP classes, but I support the idea of them. I'm not so hot on the idea of tiered classes, in which students are separated by achievement, but I like having the AP option for students. I know there are students who are serious about their work and who want to maximize their educational careers, and I support programs that raise the bar for such students. The best classes I took in High School were AP, simply because we could go into greater detail and have more meaningful discussions in a group of academically oriented students. As for the tests, I know there's a lot of pressure to pass them, and I remember a lot of my friends not making the grade (so to speak). Just keep in mind: passing an AP exam doesn't make the course "worth it"; the course should have been worth taking on its own merit, intrinsically and extrinsically. The exam is there to give you college credit, and in all fairness, not many high school students work at the same level as college students.

As far as subjectivity goes, well, yes and no. Humans are grading the tests on a qualitative scale, so there's inherently subjectivity at work. But I firmly believe that most teachers (and nearly all who grade AP tests) have strikingly similar standards for what makes a good essay. I doubt there would be much argument between graders, and when a paper is on the cusp between passing or failing, 95% of teachers look to raise it above passing. So if someone doesn't pass the exam, I wouldn't look to human subjectivity.

Also, regarding essays, how much range are you willing to give someone with analysis? Does it matter if it's accepted analysis or not as long as they have textual evidence? And if someone completely analyzes something incorrectly, how can you even determine it's incorrect if English as a whole is so subjective?


What is "accepted" analysis? Do you mean a thesis or claim that is uncommon in academic circles? Moreover, what is "incorrect"? As far as I'm concerned, the evidence with which you support your claim is what determines the claim's correctness. If you can intelligently and poignantly use textual evidence to prove your point, you should receive full credit.

Now, if you think your idea is completely original and outrageous, it might be because there's not an ample amount of evidence. Don't grab an idea out of left field then try to make it work; jamming shapes into wrong holes just ... hm... I can't finish this metaphor without feeling inappropriate. Let's just stop here.
Spoiler:
Image

User avatar
Griffmo
Posts: 77
Joined: Thu Feb 19, 2009 5:53 pm UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby Griffmo » Wed Feb 03, 2010 4:28 am UTC

High School Freshmen here, we work on a block scheduling so I just started English this week. Despite the fact that the tests put me at like a college reading and writing level, the school won't let me take anything but CP courses. This of course leads to the problem where I seem to be the only one outperforming in class so far, as it's (as of now) pretty ridiculously easy. My question is, would you rather see a somewhat overqualified (for lack of a better term) student be quiet and let others take the spotlight, or help nudge the class along since I'm the only one answering questions and participating in discussions. I like the teacher and I don't want him to think of me as the "know it all" but the feeling of having something interesting to say, and being the only one with their hand up consistently is somewhat uneasy.
Image

Pierrot
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Feb 02, 2010 8:22 am UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby Pierrot » Wed Feb 03, 2010 5:25 am UTC

Hi. Do you mostly focus on writing and grammar or do you focus more on literary discussion and the like.

Also how do you usually asses your students' performance? Do you give out essays and assignments that give students the ability write their own opinions and grade them according to how well they support it?
Or do you give out tests and grade the students knowledge on technical information?

I'm sorry for the somewhat strange questions, but I am currently a student living in South Korea and we focus more on exams and the students' performance are only measured in school rank. (Unfortunately) :cry:

dg61
Posts: 287
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:30 am UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby dg61 » Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:22 am UTC

Griffmo wrote:High School Freshmen here, we work on a block scheduling so I just started English this week. Despite the fact that the tests put me at like a college reading and writing level, the school won't let me take anything but CP courses. This of course leads to the problem where I seem to be the only one outperforming in class so far, as it's (as of now) pretty ridiculously easy. My question is, would you rather see a somewhat overqualified (for lack of a better term) student be quiet and let others take the spotlight, or help nudge the class along since I'm the only one answering questions and participating in discussions. I like the teacher and I don't want him to think of me as the "know it all" but the feeling of having something interesting to say, and being the only one with their hand up consistently is somewhat uneasy.

Eh, it's not your fault that you're the most qualified kid in the class. One thing that in my unprofessional and unqalified judgment might help is to frame your ideas as propositions to be examined by the class. And now, for a question for the English teacher:
How do teachers/schools go about picking books to assign? Do you think that process ever leads teachers to overlook worthy books?

User avatar
Rinsaikeru
Pawn, soon to be a Queen
Posts: 2166
Joined: Wed Aug 27, 2008 5:26 am UTC
Location: Toronto
Contact:

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby Rinsaikeru » Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:31 am UTC

In my experience...it's the interesection between available class sets (that aren't used by other faculty) and books you can tolerate reading/teaching again...


:?
Rice Puddin.

Pierrot
Posts: 12
Joined: Tue Feb 02, 2010 8:22 am UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby Pierrot » Wed Feb 03, 2010 9:20 am UTC

How early do teachers usually make their lesson plans? Also, how long are the lesson plans themselves?

User avatar
Ixtellor
There are like 4 posters on XKCD that no more about ...
Posts: 3113
Joined: Sun Jan 13, 2008 3:31 pm UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby Ixtellor » Wed Feb 03, 2010 2:08 pm UTC

dg61 wrote:How do teachers/schools go about picking books to assign?


This is going to vary a LOT.

Generally a district will have some sort of approved book list that gets added to every year.
If a teacher wants to make a case for a book, they can attempt to get it on the list.
Depending on the department/district guidelines -- all teachers may be required to teach the same books.
Some teachers have limited choices, but they still have to be approved books.
Additionaly, in some(most?) students will get to select a book to read after which they will be assigned some task regarding the book. My wife has had great success with this and by recommending really good books tailored to individual students likes, interests, intellects she had success in getting lots of non-readers to begin enjoying literature.

dg61 wrote:Do you think that process ever leads teachers to overlook worthy books?


This too will vary greatly from school to school.
1) Many english teachers are education majors who got thrown into english -- and thus may not even enjoy literature or be qualified to teach it.
2) More importantly, is the school districts willingness to fight lawsuits and parental/community complaints. In a famous Texas case an AP english teacher -- who was very good at her job -- was fired for assigning the book "Snow falling on Ceders". A book that won numerous awards, but had an extremely short sex scene.

So many districts would rather not deal with controversy and stick to safe books in which case "Yes they overlook many worthy books".
Also, if you happen to get a born-again fundy english teacher, obviously that is going to skew their book selections. "No Life of Pi for you!"

Griffmo wrote:the school won't let me take anything but CP courses.


The school is doing your a disservice. Is it a small school, a poor school, a private school? Why the limited class selection?

Griffmo wrote:I like the teacher and I don't want him to think of me as the "know it all" but the feeling of having something interesting to say


Just gauge your teachers reactions. I can't see a good teacher being annoyed or think of a student who participates as a 'know it all'.

In fact, if they do think of you as a 'know it all', then they are a bad teacher.

If your teacher is into educational research and modern teaching methods, tell the teacher you feel like the material is too easy and are looking for something more challenging. All the big education thinkers of the day are promoting about "Differentiation" -- meaning that your education should be tailored to you specifically -- in so far, as you should be given a completely different set of instructions and assignments that best meet your educational needs, regardless of what the rest of the class is doing.

Where the class is going over verb usage, and your at your desk reading Sophies Choice, preparing to write a cross cirricular paper for English and History.

Or even simpler: voice your thoughts to the teacher and see what options are available.
The Revolution will not be Twitterized.

User avatar
unus vox
Posts: 135
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:01 pm UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby unus vox » Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:12 pm UTC

Griffmo wrote:High School Freshmen here, we work on a block scheduling so I just started English this week. Despite the fact that the tests put me at like a college reading and writing level, the school won't let me take anything but CP courses. This of course leads to the problem where I seem to be the only one outperforming in class so far, as it's (as of now) pretty ridiculously easy. My question is, would you rather see a somewhat overqualified (for lack of a better term) student be quiet and let others take the spotlight, or help nudge the class along since I'm the only one answering questions and participating in discussions. I like the teacher and I don't want him to think of me as the "know it all" but the feeling of having something interesting to say, and being the only one with their hand up consistently is somewhat uneasy.


I know what it's like to be the only one with something to say. In high school, I was in a biology class with many students who were not academically strong and were very apathetic. I didn't speak up, though, and allowed myself to fall into the same sentiment as they. While I did well in the class, I didn't maximize my potential in it, and now I regret my limited understanding of biology (a subject I'm very interested in).

Don't ever short-change yourself. If you've been thrust into a position of leadership, take the helm. As long as you are not cocky and don't boast your intelligence, no one will hold it against you. If anything, the students and teacher will appreciate your facilitation in the classroom. No one likes a quiet, awkward class. Trust me: even the students who show little interest or understanding would rather have the class progress. Plus, research shows that high achieving students help raise everyone's learning by setting the pace and taking on a positive role.


pierrot wrote:Hi. Do you mostly focus on writing and grammar or do you focus more on literary discussion and the like.

Also how do you usually asses your students' performance? Do you give out essays and assignments that give students the ability write their own opinions and grade them according to how well they support it?
Or do you give out tests and grade the students knowledge on technical information?

I'm sorry for the somewhat strange questions, but I am currently a student living in South Korea and we focus more on exams and the students' performance are only measured in school rank. (Unfortunately) :cry:


To answer both of your questions, "Yes."

I switch between writing, grammar, and literature. I understand how each has educational importance, but they aren't mutually exclusive either. Literature provides a topic for writing and text with which to discuss writing style. I don't think literature should exist in a vacuum -- it's the diving board from which we spring into discussion and responses. I try to incorporate writing assignments and exercises into our readings whenever possible, although I do have lessons that concentrate solely on lit discussion or on grammar exercises.

As for essays vs. tests, I switch. On one hand, I need to ensure that my students are actually doing the reading. Some students can write a great essay on a book they haven't read, so I can't ethically ace them if they aren't doing the work. On the other hand, doing the reading and comprehending it isn't everything. I don't just want students to go through the motions; I want them to give thoughtful and well constructed responses to what they read. There are different levels of learning, and I'm not doing my job unless I have my students demonstrate all of them.

dg61 wrote:How do teachers/schools go about picking books to assign? Do you think that process ever leads teachers to overlook worthy books?


In most districts, the teachers use whatever is in stock and, when budgets allow, they'll order a new text or two. It usually gets to the point where a school has enough books so that a teacher could alternate curricula every other year, but rarely do teachers have something new each year. If anything, teachers get comfortable with their texts and tend to stick with them for a while.

As for how the texts are chosen (which is your real question), that depends on the district. Some districts will actually mandate a book list, according to what an administrator or board of education believes should be taught. Other districts may leave it completely up to the teacher, as long as the books seem appropriate. I have to submit my annual agenda to my principal at the beginning of the year so it's known what I'm teaching. If I wanted to order a new text according to my own likes and beliefs, I'd have the opportunity to do so. However, there is not often a budget to do so. Thus, I tend to teach the books that the school already has. Fortunately, I quite like our preexisting texts.

I think every book which isn't taught is overlooked, with the exception of Twilight.

pierrot wrote:How early do teachers usually make their lesson plans? Also, how long are the lesson plans themselves?


That depends entirely on the teacher. Some districts may want to see lesson plans a week in advance, but I've never had such an experience (or heard about it). I think most teachers are simply expected to be fully prepared every day. I go into a week knowing where I'll be at the end of the week, with an idea of what I'll be doing each day (I write each day's topic on a weekly agenda on the board). Beyond the week, I just have an idea of my major assessments for the unit and where the unit is headed. I write the lesson plans themselves usually the night before the lesson, so that I have a hard copy of my procedure and can hand it to an administrator if they wish. Of course, some lesson plans are reused from the past if I want to redo the lesson.

My lessons are about a page. The procedure (what I'm actually doing) is a little less than half the page, with my objectives, assessments, and state standards (bureaucratic stuff) taking up the rest.
Last edited by unus vox on Thu Feb 04, 2010 1:07 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
Spoiler:
Image

User avatar
Kizyr
Posts: 2070
Joined: Wed Nov 15, 2006 4:16 am UTC
Location: Virginia
Contact:

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby Kizyr » Wed Feb 03, 2010 7:41 pm UTC

To take this in a little different direction...

Have you dealt with any students with mild/moderate learning disabilities? By mild/moderate (I don't mean in the technical/medical sense), things that'd really slow down their work but may not necessarily hold them back (e.g., dyslexia, ADHD, etc.).

Nothing prompted this except some idle curiosity. I have other questions that I might ask later. KF
~Kizyr
Image

Rizzo
Posts: 31
Joined: Mon Nov 03, 2008 2:20 am UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby Rizzo » Wed Feb 03, 2010 11:24 pm UTC

Do you think it is better to teach material to a group of students and have them do sub-par on a test, or is it better to teach the test and have the students only learn the material required in order to pass the final exam or big test grade? In essence, is it better to have the students continue learning for the sake of learning, or is it better to have them just know certain material for a short amount of time?

hashbrowns
Posts: 16
Joined: Thu Feb 04, 2010 12:41 am UTC
Location: Laramie, Wyoming
Contact:

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby hashbrowns » Thu Feb 04, 2010 5:50 am UTC

Isn't vox, vocis feminine?
Yeah, I know I'm a drunk Irish cowboy ninja...

User avatar
rath358
The bone of my bone
Posts: 945
Joined: Wed Jan 14, 2009 6:02 am UTC
Location: west Camberville

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby rath358 » Thu Feb 04, 2010 6:55 am UTC

How do you go about sounding your barbaric YAWP from the rooftops of the world?

User avatar
unus vox
Posts: 135
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:01 pm UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby unus vox » Thu Feb 04, 2010 4:19 pm UTC

Kizyr wrote:To take this in a little different direction...

Have you dealt with any students with mild/moderate learning disabilities? By mild/moderate (I don't mean in the technical/medical sense), things that'd really slow down their work but may not necessarily hold them back (e.g., dyslexia, ADHD, etc.).

Nothing prompted this except some idle curiosity. I have other questions that I might ask later. KF


Yes, I've had students with all sorts of obstacles to learning. I've had students with dyslexia and ADHD, as you mention, and students with more inhibiting learning disabilities. I have quite a few students who have great difficulty writing. Their reading comprehension may be fine, and they can put great thought into a subject, but there's almost a disconnect between their thoughts and their writing. It's interesting how different parts of the brain can be at very different levels of functioning.

On the other side of the coin, I have students who are borderline illiterate (this is high school, mind you). It is a huge challenge for me to teach students who struggle with reading while simultaneously pushing high-achieving students to give in-depth analyses.

rizzo wrote:Do you think it is better to teach material to a group of students and have them do sub-par on a test, or is it better to teach the test and have the students only learn the material required in order to pass the final exam or big test grade? In essence, is it better to have the students continue learning for the sake of learning, or is it better to have them just know certain material for a short amount of time?


Ideally, a test should be a reflection of what a teacher wants students to take away from the material. I'm not suggesting that every question be equally important and essential, but I like to give tests that show a students' understanding of important and relevant information. This seem hypocritical when I give reading comprehension tests, which don't require great thought, but I would argue that such tests indicate that a student completed and understood a reading. This is the sort of test necessarily before we can move on to interpretation, analysis, evaluation, etc. Things like state exams, which are out of my control, are certainly a different matter. But those sort of exams tend to assess skills as opposed to content -- skills that students should have been learning all along.

For your second question, I unwaveringly answer that students should always continue learning. Short-term knowledge is useless. Anything that's worth knowing should be integrally connected to something else; in psychological circles, this is called schema theory. It is impossible to build upon our understanding of the world when we have gaps in our knowledge.

In essence (tldr): stress what is fundamentally important, and help students retain it.

hashbrowns wrote:Isn't vox, vocis feminine?


It sure is. And, last time I checked, I'm a dude. I made this as a screen name a few years back, when I thought it would be cool to have a Latin pseudonym. I still don't know Latin, and my ability to conjugate it is nonexistant. But I like havig consistency in the name, so let's call it an unintentional easter egg for the Latin savvy.

rath358 wrote:How do you go about sounding your barbaric YAWP from the rooftops of the world?


If we're going to do epic poetry, I prefer T. S. Eliot's "The Wasteland" or, for that matter, The Iliad.
Spoiler:
Image

User avatar
Bakemaster
pretty nice future dick
Posts: 8933
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2007 2:33 pm UTC
Location: One of those hot places

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby Bakemaster » Thu Feb 04, 2010 4:27 pm UTC

By the shores of xkcd,
By the shining Series-Of-Tubes,
Stood the topic of unus vox,
Teacher of English, unus vox.

(sorry)

Anyway, question. From what I've seen, English curricula prior to the college level tend to be far more well-developed in the areas of literature and general composition than in poetry or fiction-writing. My own experience in high school was that "creative writing and poetry" would be addressed during one, maybe two, weeks of the school year—and beyond grading students on their adherence to an assigned poetic form (usually sonnet form), the rubric boiled down to giving everyone an 'A' and writing, "Very creative!" at the top. Do you think this is because teachers require a very specific skill set to be able to properly evaluate and critique creative writing, or for some other reason? Do you think it's appropriate to relegate dedicated creative writing coursework to "elective" status while literature and/or composition coursework is a full-year, every-year requirement all the way up until college?
Image
c0 = 2.13085531 × 1014 smoots per fortnight
"Apparently you can't summon an alternate timeline clone of your inner demon, guys! Remember that." —Noc

User avatar
unus vox
Posts: 135
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:01 pm UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby unus vox » Fri Feb 05, 2010 6:28 pm UTC

Bakemaster wrote:By the shores of xkcd,
By the shining Series-Of-Tubes,
Stood the topic of unus vox,
Teacher of English, unus vox.

(sorry)

Anyway, question. From what I've seen, English curricula prior to the college level tend to be far more well-developed in the areas of literature and general composition than in poetry or fiction-writing. My own experience in high school was that "creative writing and poetry" would be addressed during one, maybe two, weeks of the school year—and beyond grading students on their adherence to an assigned poetic form (usually sonnet form), the rubric boiled down to giving everyone an 'A' and writing, "Very creative!" at the top. Do you think this is because teachers require a very specific skill set to be able to properly evaluate and critique creative writing, or for some other reason? Do you think it's appropriate to relegate dedicated creative writing coursework to "elective" status while literature and/or composition coursework is a full-year, every-year requirement all the way up until college?


GRRRR. I wrote a multi-paragraph response to this, and it got eaten by the nefarious interwebs. I even responded to your Hiawatha excerpt, continuing the parody.

I talked about how creative writing IS an essential part to learning, and how we do our students a disservice by ignoring it. I also mentioned that teachers tend to view creativity as secondary to what are deemed "essential skills." I also noted, however, that creative writing cannot adequately be established when students can barely spell their names. (I had a tenth grader once who consistently spelled her name wrong, and consistently spelled the word "but" as "buh.") When plagued by near-illiteracy, creative writing seems like a far cry from top priority.

I explained how the foremost job of a teacher is to prepare all students for their lives beyond high school, and while creativity/innovation may be a part of that, few skills are more important than reading comprehension, writing ability, and analysis. You may argue that such skills are established in creative writing, but when students are given an assignment like writing a poem or short story, they are likely to "teach" themselves poor writing habits. "Walk before you can run" as they say.

In so many words, yes: I try to incorporate creative assignments where my students have liberty over their topics and how they approach them. We're doing a poetry unit right now. On the other hand, we cannot sacrifice a student's writing and reading ability for the sake of him feeling creatively liberated.

Don't misunderstand me... I highly encourage my students to seek out their creative facets and write/create when they can. Not all students can afford that in traditional education's stead.
Spoiler:
Image

dg61
Posts: 287
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:30 am UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby dg61 » Sun Feb 07, 2010 1:10 am UTC

T. S. Eliot's "The Wasteland"

Speaking of this, how do you balance between different forms(novels, lyric poetry, epic poetry, essays, and so on)? In my experience, essays, poetry, short stories and (literary) nonfiction tend to get short shrift in curricula-do you make any effort to correct this?

User avatar
unus vox
Posts: 135
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:01 pm UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby unus vox » Sun Feb 07, 2010 1:20 am UTC

dg61 wrote:
T. S. Eliot's "The Wasteland"

Speaking of this, how do you balance between different forms(novels, lyric poetry, epic poetry, essays, and so on)? In my experience, essays, poetry, short stories and (literary) nonfiction tend to get short shrift in curricula-do you make any effort to correct this?


Well, my curriculum for this year is as follows: short stories, novella, novel, poetry, play, personal essays, satire. Depending on how quickly we move through that, we might fit another novel in. Along the way, I also put in mini-units like grammar lessons and a class wiki. I try to cover a wide range of literary forms, but it's just so difficult. I wish we could move through the material quicker to get to more, but some students take a while to read while others don't read at all. Also, I don't want to shortchange anything by glossing over it. I try to gauge what experiences my students have had, and fill in any gaps. For instance, they don't seem to have done a lot with poetry, so I'm trying to squeeze more of that into the time allotted. I don't suppose I have any particular ways to balance the curriculum other than varying the material we look at it. Kind of a weak explanation, I know. From a teacher's perspective, there is so little time in a school year for everything you feel is necessary.
Spoiler:
Image

dg61
Posts: 287
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:30 am UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby dg61 » Sun Feb 07, 2010 1:34 am UTC

unus vox wrote:From a teacher's perspective, there is so little time in a school year for everything you feel is necessary.

I know that feeling-I was a TA for an HS art history teacher and was coming up with a schedule/list of targets for the AP exam and the material just barely fit in. Granted, we got off to a really, really slow start but still.

User avatar
The EGE
not very good at pickup limes
Posts: 1081
Joined: Sat Dec 27, 2008 12:11 am UTC
Contact:

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby The EGE » Sun Feb 07, 2010 5:10 am UTC

My general list of complaints and questions:

1) Why are english teachers so averse to anything published after 1960 or so? There is so much great literature published in the last half-century, and it never gets taught it schools. Doubly so for sci-fi.

2) Why are so many incredibly cryptic things considered 'great' literature? For example, Finnegans Wake. It's considered a classic, never mind that the average person CANNOT READ IT.

3) Why is so much time spent on a seemingly useless activity - analyzing fiction? It seems to me that things like effective writing techniques (especially the recognition that there are things that people will need to write in their lives besides 5-paragraph essays) or simply combatting the pathetic grammatical and spelling skills of students would be time better spent than telling me about the themes in Of Mice and Men.

4) Why is all the literature we read written by dead white men of western European descent? Are we completely ignorant of the existance of everything written in Asia, and Russia, and Africa, and hell everything not written by an American, Brit, or Frenchman?

5) Do authors really conciously write this much subtext into every single word of their novels? Or is it possible that they were just trying to write an interesting plot and the subtext was entirely unintended?

6) Why are English teachers so averse to nonfiction? This year (11th grade) was the first time since 2nd grade that a teacher had us read nonfiction for English.

7) Why do English teachers seem to assume that all reading has to be for content? My teachers seem surprised that I actually read stuff like bad detective novels and military fiction for fun. Hech, one actually seemed downright offended that anyone would use *their* language for such lowly pursuits. The best way, in my opinion, for students to learn vocabulary, grammar, and mechanics, not to mention just to be downright intelligent, is to read as much as possible, not matter what you are reading, and yet my English teachers have not encouraged such.

I'm sorry if I come off bitter. Just let it suffice to say that I've suffering through English for years, trying to keep up in a subject that rarely agrees with me at all and seems entirely illogical at times. I've had some very good teachers and some very mediocre ones. I have had some.. bad experiences.
sillybear25 wrote:But it's NPH, so it's creepy in the best possible way.

Shivahn wrote:I'm in your abstractions, burning your notions of masculinity.

User avatar
BlackSails
Posts: 5315
Joined: Thu Dec 20, 2007 5:48 am UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby BlackSails » Sun Feb 07, 2010 7:21 am UTC

The EGE wrote:My general list of complaints and questions:

1) Why are english teachers so averse to anything published after 1960 or so? There is so much great literature published in the last half-century, and it never gets taught it schools. Doubly so for sci-fi.


Ive read plenty of modern stuff for class. Kurt Vonnegut, Orson Scott Card and so on. Sure, its less common than older literature, but older literature has the advantages of
1) The school has it in stock
2) The teacher is familiar with it
3) There is critical material on it


2) Why are so many incredibly cryptic things considered 'great' literature? For example, Finnegans Wake. It's considered a classic, never mind that the average person CANNOT READ IT.


Godel's incompleteness theorem is considered a "great" piece of math, nevermind that the average person (even the average scientist) CANNOT READ IT


3) Why is so much time spent on a seemingly useless activity - analyzing fiction? It seems to me that things like effective writing techniques (especially the recognition that there are things that people will need to write in their lives besides 5-paragraph essays) or simply combatting the pathetic grammatical and spelling skills of students would be time better spent than telling me about the themes in Of Mice and Men.
]

You expect to be able to write without being able to analyze things already written? Thats like trying to quarterback a football game without ever watching a game. Sure, you might be a great natural athlete, but that doesnt mean crap.


4) Why is all the literature we read written by dead white men of western European descent? Are we completely ignorant of the existance of everything written in Asia, and Russia, and Africa, and hell everything not written by an American, Brit, or Frenchman?


Translations usually suck. Also, students are not going to like reading things from a completely alien culture. How much do YOU have in common with a 15th century ethopian peasent? Are you really going to be able to distinguish between the thousand characters with (to our ears) exactly the same same, as you will find in romance of the three kingdoms?


5) Do authors really conciously write this much subtext into every single word of their novels? Or is it possible that they were just trying to write an interesting plot and the subtext was entirely unintended?


Some do, some dont. In either case, it doesnt really matter. Trying to analyze the author's intent is a black hole. Authors sometimes mean things they didnt write, and dont mean things that they do write. Sometimes they lie about their intentions.

6) Why are English teachers so averse to nonfiction? This year (11th grade) was the first time since 2nd grade that a teacher had us read nonfiction for English.


Biographies are nonfiction, but I have read plenty of those for class.

7) Why do English teachers seem to assume that all reading has to be for content? My teachers seem surprised that I actually read stuff like bad detective novels and military fiction for fun. Hech, one actually seemed downright offended that anyone would use *their* language for such lowly pursuits. The best way, in my opinion, for students to learn vocabulary, grammar, and mechanics, not to mention just to be downright intelligent, is to read as much as possible, not matter what you are reading, and yet my English teachers have not encouraged such.


So you had some shitty teachers.

dg61
Posts: 287
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:30 am UTC

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby dg61 » Sun Feb 07, 2010 8:28 am UTC

BlackSails wrote:
The EGE wrote:My general list of complaints and questions:

4) Why is all the literature we read written by dead white men of western European descent? Are we completely ignorant of the existence of everything written in Asia, and Russia, and Africa, and hell everything not written by an American, Brit, or Frenchman?


Translations usually suck. Also, students are not going to like reading things from a completely alien culture. How much do YOU have in common with a 15th century ethopian peasent? Are you really going to be able to distinguish between the thousand characters with (to our ears) exactly the same same, as you will find in romance of the three kingdoms?

So you had some shitty teachers.

Honestly, the lack of non-western literature is also one of my biggest pet peeves about lit classes in high school. God knows there's a ton of good stuff out there. As for relevance, I thought the point of lit class was to challenge people and one very good way to do that is to have them read something that does not conform to our initial assumptions. Nobody's saying "assign books written for Ethiopian peasants" or "assign Romance of The Three Kingdoms", but it would be perfectly reasonable to assign something comparatively recent like One Hundred Years of Solitude. That said, you can perfectly well familiarize yourself with various non-western literary traditions on your own time if you want to.

User avatar
Jahoclave
sourmilk's moderator
Posts: 4790
Joined: Thu Oct 25, 2007 8:34 pm UTC
Contact:

Re: Ask an English teacher!

Postby Jahoclave » Tue Feb 09, 2010 6:53 am UTC

dg61 wrote:
BlackSails wrote:
The EGE wrote:My general list of complaints and questions:

4) Why is all the literature we read written by dead white men of western European descent? Are we completely ignorant of the existence of everything written in Asia, and Russia, and Africa, and hell everything not written by an American, Brit, or Frenchman?


Translations usually suck. Also, students are not going to like reading things from a completely alien culture. How much do YOU have in common with a 15th century ethopian peasent? Are you really going to be able to distinguish between the thousand characters with (to our ears) exactly the same same, as you will find in romance of the three kingdoms?

So you had some shitty teachers.

Honestly, the lack of non-western literature is also one of my biggest pet peeves about lit classes in high school. God knows there's a ton of good stuff out there. As for relevance, I thought the point of lit class was to challenge people and one very good way to do that is to have them read something that does not conform to our initial assumptions. Nobody's saying "assign books written for Ethiopian peasants" or "assign Romance of The Three Kingdoms", but it would be perfectly reasonable to assign something comparatively recent like One Hundred Years of Solitude. That said, you can perfectly well familiarize yourself with various non-western literary traditions on your own time if you want to.


One, there's limited time. Two, from my experience with non-western lit, it doesn't tend to fall into the politically safe category. Plus, I would never want to teach One Hundred Years of Solitude (I think Achebe's Things Fall Apart is a better option, though it doesn't have the same magical realism in it) to high school students. It's a great book, but what's required to teach it is, in my opinion, too much for a high school course, especially without giving them a background on post-colonialism. Culturally at a high school level you're not branching out much from the literary traditions of Anglo-Saxon culture to start with. You've only got a limited amount of time to expose students to Shakespeare through post-modernism, throwing in poetry as well. Plus, if by Russian you mean the likes of Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, then I'd wager that I'll be reading a news story, "teacher clubbed to death by Anna Karenina."

You find the same problem with post-1960's writing as well, it's generally not politically safe. Sci-fi is also not broad spectrum; however, it would be a great way to engage in modern issues due to the estrangement factor.

As to the third point, I find the bigger problem is not with analyzing fiction, but analyzing fiction poorly. It's not really about interpreting what a symbol means (in fact, I've only touched on symbolism majorly in one essay during my entire college career and that was while discussing poetry). The real point is to formulate and defend an argument. The problem and what I consider the most common complaint is that students aren't well equipped with tools to formulate an argument about literature.

Some do, some dont. In either case, it doesnt really matter. Trying to analyze the author's intent is a black hole. Authors sometimes mean things they didnt write, and dont mean things that they do write. Sometimes they lie about their intentions.

And Roland Barthes killed them (as I like to sum up that entire essay).


What I really came to do was, as a creative writing major, comment on the issue of teaching creative writing. It's not the same as an English degree, much less an Eng Ed degree. Unless the teacher actually minored in creative writing they're not going to have the ability to properly teach the subject. Fiction writing is an entirely different skill set from Poetry, as is Creative Non-Fiction, and Drama. You're basically asking teachers to condense down a whole lot of writing theory and techniques into a short unit and pass that onto students. That's only going to allow for the basics to be gotten across (most of which is already generally covered as part of literature) and it's not entirely that useful to most students who will never have a use for the theory. On top of that, high school writing is fucking terrible. FUCKING TERRIBLE. Twilight, as bad as it is, is an epic testament and glorification of the English language compared to high school creative writing. So, the reason it doesn't happen boils down to one simple phrase. You've got better shit to learn and the teacher doesn't have the training in the first place.

When you think about it, how many high school students are going to become writers? 0.x%? How many are going to need to know how to formulate an argument and write? All of them?

Consider what you find more important to spend time on.

Then there's what Vox said.



On Shakespeare: there's the added reason that there are so many references and allusions to his works (plus a good many of our standard cliches) that you need to read his works to properly understand them.

Edit: As for #5
Some do, see Ellison. You would be surprised though, how much thought an author does put into their diction, especially in those scenes where they're really trying to make a point. Word choice can radically alter meaning and the writers that get read and discussed know that. So it may not be a case of they chose this word as a symbolic representation of x, but they did choose it because it has x denotation and references with this or that event. Hell, "Luke Skywalker," as much as Star Wars is a George Lucas masturbation fest, is a carefully crafted name. It's something to be aware of, and is important, but I find entirely overplayed in the k-12. Then again, I'm working on an MA in theory, so there could be some bias.


Return to “School”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests