Monday, June 23, 2008

Classic or Contemporary

I have been debating for the last four or five weeks about the curriculum that I will teach next year. I have the assignment of American Literature and that is a huge topic (the only description more vague and daunting is the 12th grade English assignment of British Literature)

I have several issues that are in my mind that I want to make sure are addressed. First, I want students to be able to see the more subtle pieces of literature than cool characters and engaging plot lines, like symbols, irony, metaphors, similes, other literary devices, etc. Second, I want to make sure that I'm not requesting my students to read books that are solely directed to the boys or girls, but have equal representation. Third, I want to feel like they have some exposure to the really great literature out there. Fourth, I wan to make sure that in the process of reaching the previous three elements, I don't make them resent reading. My conundrum is finding a way to make the third and the fourth work together.

I am absolutely teaching the following -
*Hamlet (not American, I know, but very notable and, once some comprehension kicks in,very relatable to adolescents)
*Greek Mythology - again, not American, but students just don't know the imagery associated with the Greeks and they need to
*The Chosen - Chaim Potok - very excited about this one
*Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain - excited to teach this one too
*Harlem Renaissance literature - may read A Raisin in the Sun with this, will do lots of poetry, short stories, some Jazz music, etc.
*Into Thin Air - John Krakauer (will do this if we can get it ordered and sharing books schedule between me and the other English teacher worked out)

My dilemma is whether to teach a major Puritan work (The Scarlet Letter or The Crucible) or just do some of the smaller works of fiction associated with the period. I love The Scarlet Letter, think that it is beautiful, poignant and so applicable to life in many ways; however, I know from my student teaching that students get lost in it, they are frustrated by the wording and hate reading it because it's hard. I don't have a problem pushing my students a bit, but not sure if pushing through this and Hamlet would be too much. Would it be better to find a different book that is easier to understand? Would I be depriving my students of the education they can have by not teaching a Puritan major work? Seeing as students just aren't taking as many English literature courses in college, this may be the only experience for many of them with this kind of literature - but is it too great of a risk to lose my students for four weeks?

Hmmm - thoughts?

1 comment:

Charlotte said...

You've got your work cut out for you, don't you? I agree with you about the "this may be the only experience they get" argument. The last English Course I ever took (not counting Business Report Writing) was the one I took from Mr. Bonzo my senior year. So, unless they take it upon themselves to read these works, or go out and get a major or minor in English, this could very easily be the only chance they get.

I did end up listening to "The Scarlet Letter" on tape a few years ago, and then I became familiar with "The Crucible" a year or two after that, when my company produced the opera that is based on the book. Neither of those works are for the casual reader, in my opinion.

So, there you have it. No clear answer or opinion here, just a little bit of empathy.