The Average Russian Doesn’t Take a Dump, Son, Without a Plan…*

…and boy, oh BOY!, have I got a plan!

I’ve been given the official word that I WILL be taking the English III/IV class next semester (which starts on February 1st.  Yikes!).  To say that I’m delighted would be an understatement, though there is a fair bit of discomfort that’s attendant to this in that the teacher who was planning to teach it… well… isn’t.  I’m going to keep focused forward, though; the decision wasn’t mine to make, so I’ve nothing to feel guilty about.

Anyway, I’ve decided that I’m going to center my class around the observances that we make during the months we’ll be together as a class.  Since the school-wide theme this year is tolerance and social justice (I can SO work with that), it is terribly convenient to match up my reading list with the things that we pause to remember and consider as we make our way through the rest of the school year.  I’ve decided I’m anchoring the class with a single, thematically-appropriate novel for each month.  Let me know what you think:

February is Black History Month – I’ve totally got that knocked; we’ll probably be reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X (which I’m 99.9% sure none of my kids has read, though they may have seen the movie, but I doubt even that), but I’m still waiting to hear back from Carson about whether or not he thinks we should read Native Son together.   We’ll probably watch Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, or maybe Amistad… or maybe Mississippi Burning… and we’ll likely see scenes from Denzel Washington’s stunning portrayal of Brother Malcolm, whether we read X or not.  I’ve also got plenty of primary source documents to go over (like, you know, the Constitution and speeches from Reconstruction to President Obama.  I just bought a GORGEOUS tome full of Dr. King’s writing that I can’t wait to have a closer look at).  I’ve also got relevant poetry up to hereDone!

March is Women’s History Month, and I struggled a bit here.  I was thinking of having The Secret Life of Bees as the novel, interspersed with some short stories and poetry and, probably, some primary source documents, too, but I was not confident about my novel choice and I really needed some guidance on how best to represent women’s literature (and not just women writers, either, but works that show women as something other than a victim or a showpiece).  I’m about 90% convinced that I’m going to go with Khalid Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns (even though I’ve not read it yet, people whose opinions about such things I trust have told me to go for it).  The other 10% is resting on The Handmaid’s Tale; I’m still waiting to hear opinions on which I should put on my reading list before the syllabus is final.

April is Genocide Remembrance month (Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day – is usually celebrated in April; I’m making it a month-long theme).  I’ve decided that I’m going to read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee with my students.  I’ve never read it before, and *I* want to; plus, I like the idea of looking at the American genocide (I also really like the idea of approaching the material fresh with the students.  By the time we get to this unit, we should be a pretty cohesive community and they’ll trust me enough to let me lead them through something that’s new to ALL of us).  I’ve got MORE than enough resources for this unit from my work with the Holocaust center, so I’m all set here.

May is Mental Health Awareness month.  The novel will be The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and I’m probably going to look at The Yellow Wallpaper, too.  I’m also interested in dissecting Poe’s Raven, and maybe Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde… or Hamlet.  There are plenty of poems about insanity (or, at the very least, mental instability), but I’m looking for suggestions here, too; I THINK I have enough material for the month, but I’m open to more.

June is Gay Pride Month and, believe it or not, I had a really hard time coming up with the novel to anchor this unit.  I didn’t know of any YA / high school-appropriate novels with GLBTQ themes – I CAN’T teach Brokeback; even though my school is pretty liberal, I’m pretty sure I can’t squeak that by – so I turned to NPR and found a review of Gay Pride Month reading, where I found out about Bow Grip.  A copy is coming to me from Amazon as we speak.  I’ve got plenty of novels by GLBTQ AUTHORS, but none that come to mind that have the themes I want to talk about; I’m hoping that this novel hits my proverbial spot without poking too many parents in uncomfortable places.

I’m TERRIBLY excited for the new semester to begin.  I’m sure I’m going to be documenting this adventure pretty carefully; I’m betting it’s one that I’m going to want to come back to in years to come.

* In case you were wondering about the title of this post, it’s a quote from one of my favorite films, The Hunt for Red October, and is one that my husband and I trot out quite a bit.  It fits in a lot of places, and it fits here.

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9 Comments

Filed under book geek, colleagues, concerns, critical thinking, Dream Course, film as literature, great writing, history, Holocaust, I love my job, lesson planning, Literature, parental units, reading, rhetoric, success!, Teaching

9 responses to “The Average Russian Doesn’t Take a Dump, Son, Without a Plan…*

  1. As a chick I think it would be super cool if your Chick’s History month book were actually written by a chick. We get little enough play I’d hate to give that sort of ground in a situation like that.

    Have you read Hunger Games? It’s YA so it’s appropriate. I’m reading the sequel now. There’s a lot to work with there.

  2. Too bad you guys aren’t reading “Carrie” by Stephen King… it fits your Chick Appreciation Month AND this year’s “Poor Oppressed Folks” theme.

    On the spectrum of intolerance and injustice, right before you hit mass murder and genocide, there’s high school.

  3. Kizz, that’s part of why I’m really thinking of The Handmaid’s Tale (and my percentages were off on that; I’ve ordered A Thousand Splendid Suns, but I’m still not convinced that’s where I’ll be going. I don’t have to be sure until the syllabus has to be delivered on the first of February.

    Yeah, Joe; high school really is a horror show. Ours is a little less so, but not by much. I think it’s a universal thing, really; if we survive high school, we’ve got a pretty good shot at making it the rest of the way. In that respect, high school is kind of an exercise in Darwinism…

  4. Chili, your reading list sounds fabulous… can I take your class?!

    I just came across this on another site, and thought you might be interested, if you haven’t already seen it (Images of MLK with the U2 song “Pride (In the Name of Love)”):

  5. Looks like fun, Ms. Chili!

    For gay pride month, you might want to look at _Trying Hard to Hear You_–YA lit, which might be a good choice for a sometimes hard to discuss topic

  6. Holy crapoli! I forgot the great Maya Angelou. _I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings_ has a powerful POV, and would fit in great with either your February or your March theme…check out her other autobios, too–they might fit the bill more specifically with what you want to do. Reading _Caged Bird_ changed my life when I was in HS.

  7. Dancing, I OWN Caged Bird, but I’ve not had a chance to read it yet. If there’s time (and there may be, as there’s no vacation time in March), I’ll see what I can do about getting that on the reading list, too.

    Do you see now why I love my readers so much? You guys are fantastic; THANK YOU!

    I’ve sent my syllabus to Carson for review – I’m eager to hear what he’s got to say on the matter. I’ve also been doing some thinking about how I want to assess the kids’ work, and I’ve come up with the idea of the portfolio – where THEY get to choose what gets graded – but I’m still not decided on how, exactly, I’m going to set that up. Regardless, I think it’s going to be a great semester, and I’ll do my best to document as much of it as I can here. Keep checking back!

  8. Melissa

    I love The Handmaid’s Tale. I read it in college, and can’t predict how high school kids would take it, but I think it’s a great book for an English class to delve into.

    Is this the only class you are going to be teaching next semester? Sounds like you have some great plans formulated thus far!

  9. Pingback: Overly Ambitious « A Teacher’s Education

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