I’m putting together a syllabus for my Film and Literature course at CHS, and I’m considering a question I don’t trust myself to answer on my own. Tell me, friends and colleagues; do you think that teaching both the novel and the film of Stephen King’s The Green Mile is junior-senior high school appropriate?
Monthly Archives: December 2009
I’m spending at least part of my holiday break putting together syllabi for classes that I might be asked to teach next term at CHS (such is the joy of being a teacher in a poorly-funded charter school!). So far, Carrie has expressed an interest in my teaching either English III (which is the least likely option, as the class is probably going to the other English teacher, but it may still land in my lap), a Film as Lit class (which I can pretty much do on the fly), or a Short Story Reading and Writing course (which is what I’m asking about today).
I’ve got the syllabus for the Short Story class pretty much fleshed out – all, that is, except for the actual stories. I have a set of good objectives, I’ve got a lot of the foundational, “elements of fiction” bases covered, and I’m pretty clear about the path we’ll take through the writing process. What I DON’T have is experience sufficient enough with short fiction to know which stories are, you know, good.
So, Dear Readers, I’m asking for your input. Give ms some of your favorite short stories, and so much the better if you’ve got them in PDF format or as links online somewhere; remember that I have exceedingly limited book access at CHS.
The field trip went better than I expected, though that’s not to say that it wasn’t without its own brand of drama and excitement. One thing in particular stood out as a spectacular little bit of teenage dumbassery.
I’ve got two kids (and yes, they were two of MY kids, from MY class, not my colleague’s). One of them is a gay boy who we’ll call Ben for our purposes here. The other is transgender, female to male, who’s just recently come out and requested that the school refer to him by masculine name and pronouns; we’ll call him Mitch. I wouldn’t point these identification details out under normal circumstances, but they are important to the story.
My colleague, Mrs. D., had wandered over to where these two kids were because another boy near them was putting his feet on the furniture. While she was over there, she noticed that Ben’s drawing book had something written on it that seemed to be making another boy – we’ll call him Jon – uncomfortable. When my Mrs. D. got up to get a closer look, Ben snapped his tablet shut and tried to cover by talking to Mitch.
Later, she found Ben and confronted him about what was in the notebook. Ben denied it several times, but Mrs. D. wasn’t giving in. Eventually, he ‘fessed up and showed her the page, on which was written “Jon’s gay!” with little stars and swirls. It was clearly written in Mitch’s handwriting, but it was in Ben’s tablet. Mrs. D. took the page and scolded the kids, telling them that there will be consequences at school when we returned.
Now, here’s the thing; Jon IS gay. That’s not particularly secret, and I’m expecting that the kids didn’t consider that their calling him so would have upset him. It DID upset him, though, and they seemed all the more intent on showing him the page when they saw that it did.
I understand that kids tend to prey on those they feel are somehow “less” than they are, even and especially kids who feel marginalized themselves. What happened on the trip yesterday was completely unacceptable, however, and I came to school this morning with the intent of taking these two kids aside and reminding them that CHS is a safe place for all students – and that it’s not just the grown-ups who bear the responsibility for making it so. Both of them are absent today, though (coincidence? I wonder…), so they didn’t get my all-school, morning meeting speech about the power of language and how we are responsible for the work our words do when we send them out.
I hope they understand that their being out today won’t get them out of this with me; of all the people in the school, these two – who’ve been shown nothing but acceptance and kindness here – have no business making someone else feel left out.
I’m taking the entire freshman and sophomore English class on a field trip today – one not of my planning, and with a colleague who… well, let’s just say that our personalities aren’t exactly compatible.
It’s going to be a LONG day.
I’m trying very hard to be positive about it, but the truth of the matter is that the dread set in around 1:00 yesterday afternoon and dug in. Send me good energy, will you, please? I’ll report back when it’s all over.
…and I love it.
I’m taking my I/II kids on a field trip on Monday (I may write more on that later, but for now, suffice to say that it was not a trip I would have planned). That means that my III/IV kids are going to be essentially on their own on Monday.
Since we started reading A Christmas Carol, the III/IV kids have been campaigning to have me let them watch A Muppet Christmas Carol.
Today, I decided that I WOULD, in fact, have them watch it – on the Monday that they’ll have a sub. Here is the handout that’s going to go with the film:
English III/IV Muppet Christmas Carol essay test
(You didn’t think that I was going to let you watch this film without making you EARN it, did you…?)
Film, while it may be influenced by written work, should be considered an entirely different piece of art for the purposes of critique and analysis. Keep this in mind as you consider the following questions. Please answer ALL of the questions as thoroughly and in as much detail as you can; use specific references to the film or the text in supporting your answers. These are due, printed and in proper class format, at the BEGINNING of class on Tuesday morning.
• Clearly, the audience for A Muppet Christmas Carol is primarily – though not exclusively – young people. Consider the ways in which Dickens’ original story was modified to make the themes more accessible to a child, and in what ways the adults who are watching the film with their children are addressed, as well. How does the film engage its intended audience in ways that perhaps the written work would not? What ideas from the novel are very effectively carried over into the film (and remember that the plot or narrative doesn’t have to be “faithful” to the book – just that the themes are effectively conveyed). Where do you feel that the film falls short in getting its message across?
• Think about the story’s narrator and about the way Dickens chooses to tell his tale. What role does humor play in the novel? How do the comic aspects of A Christmas Carol interact with and support the moral and ghost-story aspects? How does Dickens blend comedy and horror? Consider these same questions in terms of the Muppet retelling, then discuss the ways in which each work uses both humor and horror, and to what effect.
• An allegory is is a form of extended metaphor in which objects, persons, and actions in a narrative are equated with the meanings that lie outside the narrative itself. The underlying meaning has moral, social, religious, or political significance, and characters are often personifications of abstract ideas as charity, greed, or envy. Thus, an allegory is a story with two meanings, a literal meaning and a symbolic meaning. Consider not only the role of characters in A Christmas Carol itself as allegory, but consider, as well, the “characters” from the Muppet ensemble that play those characters in the film version. Why are human characters part of the film; what effect does that have on the audience? Why are particular Muppets given particular roles, and what effect does this have on the way we’re supposed to understand their larger significance as allegories?
Their heads are going to explode…
I just hit “submit” on the final grades for my Local U. class! WOOT! Another semester in the can.
I’m so relieved.