I attended Happyland High's graduation since I did teach all seniors for the past three months. It was sweet, brief and the kids left their own mark on the event. No grown ups spoke, just students, which I liked very much, and the crowd was enthusiastic and respectful. As each kid crossed the gym to receive their diploma I realized how much I really liked each of them. Not an asshole in the bunch, which is really saying something. I feel blessed to have spent this spring working with them.
How did Crime & Punishment go? After realizing how much work the students needed to prep for their AP exam (Language and Composition), I decided to mostly shelve it until after the test. I assigned each kid a section and they presented their chunk of the book in graphic novel format. Combined with some class discussion, they all got the gist of it, even though only 1% of the students read the entire book. I read it. Hated it. Didn't see the point of a) wasting so much time on a novel in a course that should focus on nonfiction writing and b) reading a translation. There are plenty of great books written in our native tongue that cover the same themes and concepts (Native Son springs immediately to mind, for example). I strongly suspect much gets lost in translation and one should read a few books translated from a common language to fully appreciate the cultural and linguistic elements. (I have done this, not with Russian writers, but with Swedish, German and Indian authors and reading several works does benefit understanding.) Were this my course to teach, I'd never go near Dostoyevsky again.
English 12 read The Taming of the Shrew and we had a blast reading the play and looking at various productions of it. Our conversation could have taken such a great turn this past week, but alas! They were finished before we could dig deeper into modern day problems over at #yesallwomen. There was so much fodder to explore regarding men and women and rights and relationships. The kids did, however, "tweet" the play from a character's perspective. We wrapped up our year discussing different views of Katherine's final speech and understanding the play's message in Elizabethan England and today.
As a treat for the AP kids we spent the last two weeks of school on Harry Potter. This included a study of archetypes, technology and an actual game of Quidditch:
I hadn't laughed so hard since my last Girls' Weekend--watching those kids run around with brooms and balls. The targets were my special design involving a hula hoop, an 8-foot garden stake, scrap lumber, a drill, duct tape and screws. The golden snitch was a Nerf football handled by a tag-team of runners first hour and my very own Mr. G fifth hour. Because fifth hour was a small class, they paired up with AP Physics. By the time each hour ended, people were breathless and sweaty and grinning.
And now I am creatively tapped out. I feel fusty trying to type this post, even. My brain has been working overtime trying to devise lesson plans and assess student needs, incorporate as many objectives as possible while keeping away from worksheets and busy work, and stay on top of all the daily business of high school life (who is in in-school suspension, which kids have what field trip, announcements, attendance, grades, etc.). There have been small dramas along the way, as well as moments of triumph.
And then I'd come home at 4:00 every day to work the second shift. But that's a story for another post.
© 2014 Melissa Westemeier All Rights Reserved