Finding My Stride

We’re into our second week in school, though neither week has been a full five days (because of the Labor Day holiday last weekend, last week was Tuesday through Thursday, this week is Tuesday to Friday).  I’m coming to realize that I had no idea how much I missed my job until I came back from summer vacation.

I’m teaching four classes this year; freshman, junior, and senior English and a Film and Literature class.  So far, they’re all going really well, though I’m still trying to adjust my brain to how much work I should reasonably expect from the students.  I’m settling into the routine of taking attendance in the new platform our Tech God launched for us this year, and that same Tech God got my (messed up) classes set up (correctly) in the class management system we started playing with last term and are running full-time this year.  In terms of logistics, I think I’ve got it figured out.

We’re running a college-inspired schedule this year, which, so far, is working out GREAT.  On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, my professional life is almost obscenely leisurely to look at from the outside; I’m only scheduled for the freshman class first block and the freshman portfolio advisory right after lunch.  I’m finding, though, that my M/W/F is packed much fuller than my Tuesday/Thursdays where I have a class literally every block.  Those “easy” days are the ones where I’m doing all my grading, planning, copying, and scheming, not to mention trying to keep up with three reading assignments (and that’s one fewer than there’ll be soon; I doubled up the English III and Film and Lit readings for the first outing).

My freshmen are reading Lois Lowry’s The Giver and are trying to figure out the writing process ahead of composing their own personal narratives.  Most of the kids have read the novel already – most in 7th grade – but I think they’re going to be pleased, and not a little surprised, by how much they DIDN’T see in the story two years ago.  I’m going to get them started on their personal essays at the end of next week with an eye for having a finished draft before the end of the first grading period in mid-October.

My English III kids are reading The Secret Life of Bees (as are my Film and Lit kids).  I’m thinking that I’m going to use the same lesson plans for both classes for this novel, and of showing the film to the core class kids, as well.  I’m dying to start talking about this book; a couple of students have come in and boldly declared that Lily is a little girl with daddy issues and I think it’s going to be fun to watch them come to the realization that her issues are all mommy (as are, consequently, her daddy’s issues.  Yep; that’s going to be a great conversation!).

My English IV kids are reading Frankenstein, and I absolutely cannot WAIT to see where they go with it.  I got a lot of complaints during the first reading day; they couldn’t get behind the language and they were completely confused about what was going on.  A couple of the kids came back to me today, though, and told me that once they got going, the ride smoothed out a bit.  I figured it would, but it was good to hear it from them.  I’m trying something different with my seniors this year in that I’m giving them, right off the bat, free rein to decide how they’re going to approach this novel.  I’ve told them that they’ve got to come up with some other supporting experience that they can interpret to show me that they’re engaged with Frankenstein on a level that goes beyond just the plot and setting, but that they have complete autonomy in how they do that.  While I’m expecting them to fall on their faces this first time out – they’ve never really been given this kind of absolute freedom before – I’m hoping that they’re observant enough of the text to be able to come up with some academically substantial ideas.  Maybe some of them will choose to examine some excerpts of Milton’s Paradise Lost or Wollstonecraft’s Vindication on the Rights of Women, or they might investigate the current issues in medical and scientific ethics that Shelley so presciently wrote about in her novel.  I’m also hoping that some of them will go off and do something creative and original; one long-ago student, when faced with the same assignment, decided to write two more chapters to the book in which the Creature returns from the Arctic and confronts Ernest.  It was delightful, imaginative, true to the voice of the novel and completely in keeping with the characters, and I’m hoping that someone sees fit to try their hand at that kind of creative effort.

We just finished Willow in the Film class, and the kids are tasked with writing a short essay in which they argue who that story is really about; my interpretation is that it’s NOT about the main character, and I’m eager to see not only who they choose, but also how they defend those choices with evidence from the movie.  They’re also finishing The Secret Life of Bees, and next week will be spent in conversation about the ideas of prejudice, faith, confidence, connection, and determination that the novel forwards, as well as in discussion of some of the creative choice the director made in the adaptation of the book to the screen.

See?  Busy!  How’s YOUR school year going?

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3 Comments

Filed under about writing, colleagues, compassion and cooperation, composition, Dream Course, film as literature, fun, I love my job, lesson planning, Literature, little bits of nothingness, reading, success!, Teaching, the good ones, The Job, writing

3 responses to “Finding My Stride

  1. Mrs. Chili, have you heard about Mr. Doomcake? Please contact me at my blog. Sorry to contact you this way, but I thought you might want to know.

    Thanks,
    Melissa

  2. Okay, so is Willow about Madmartigan? That’s my guess…

    • You know what? I don’t think that it is. While a couple of kids have made some pretty convincing arguments that Madmartigan is the one who changes the most over the course of the film, I still don’t think so. While he was a full-of-bluster rouge at the beginning of the film, he shows evidence, even while hanging in the crow’s nest, that he was always a decent guy at heart. All he needed was something he cared enough about to be loyal to.

      I think that Sorsha, Bavmorda’s daughter, is the one who changes the most, and it’s because Madmartigan loved her (even though he first declared that love while under a Brownie love dust spell). At the beginning of the film, we see her as a sort of sad combination of ambitious and hyper-conscious of being in her powerful mother’s shadow. Her relationships with men are always about power (clearly, as she’s risen to a significant position in the army) and she’s suppressed her instinct to nurture in favor of her need to be in control. In the tent scene where Madmartigan, high on love dust, tells her that she’s beautiful, we really see in her face the fact that she’s never even considered that she might be an object of affection, and I think it really throws her. It’s not soon after that that I think we see her make a choice, and from there she begins aligning herself against her mother and becomes who she truly is.

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