Teaching Reflections, 10/14

I’m currently in the middle of grading my first batch of Blinn papers, so naturally I’m spending time on this blog post instead of making more progress. All the papers are attempting to do the same thing, so it gets repetitive reading them. That’s the nature of assigning papers and instructing students how to go about writing them, but the monotony is difficult to overcome. I wonder if there would be a way to assign a choice of prompts for the first essay to offer some variety (for my students, sure, but largely for me), while all accomplishing similar tasks?

Returning these first essays will change my relationship with these students – it usually does. The first paper grades are often a bit of a wake up to those who don’t invest in what I’m selling, and perhaps some of the silliness I’m seeing in my classes from some of the guys will cease. A sizable portion of my students need to understand that I’m serious about their writing, and serious about the course. When I’m teaching these same courses at Blinn, I don’t get the same level of distraction from the students – there’s something about being on an actual college campus vs. a building you’ve been roaming for four years that dissuades cutting up; that and being surrounded by strangers instead of friends.

Moving on…

My AP approached my about the freshmen book choices they’re given for one reading assingment. We’ve had a few parents rebel against their kids having to read works that aren’t written by dead white men this year. Certainly, there are works that many freshmen probably aren’t ready for, but the novels being assigned to PURPOSEFULLY ask students to read a different perspective than their own aren’t outrageous: The Hate U Give, Speak, Aristotle And Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, a couple others. All pretty tame stuff, and all YA lit. No one’s being asked to change their views about anything (INDOCTRINATION!) – but there’s value in students reading different perspectives, and deciding what they agree with and what they don’t, and being able to EXPLAIN that. Right?

AP asked me to consider getting some more “vanilla” options in there. That was the mom’s request/word, not my AP’s. A couple titles were thrown out: Catcher in the Rye, for one. You know, the one with this passage:

That’s the whole trouble. You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write “Fuck you” right under your nose. Try it sometime. I think, even, if I ever die, and they stick me in a cemetery, and I have a tombstone and all, it’ll say “Holden Caulfield” on it, and then what year I was born and what year I died, and then right under that it’ll say “Fuck you.” I’m positive, in fact.

I don’t quote the above passage to say kids shouldn’t read Catcher. ONLY 16 year olds should read Catcher. But there’s objectionable content there, as any work worth its salt has. My AP knows/understands this. But authors of color and LGBTQ authors more often bear the brunt of complaints for their content in this community, and that’s not right.

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