Today I was looking through my Goodreads “currently reading” list and realised that I have around 10 books on that list! I am chronic in starting a book only to take a break from it for a while, a LONg while it seems, and then have to pretty much start from the beginning because I’ve forgotten what it was about! I am also chronic in reading/re-reading books in a series in an effort to pad my Reading Challenge (Deltora and Series of Unfortunate Events, I’m talking to you!) for the year, which now sits at 78/85 books, but having all those unfinished books on my list does get to me at times.
I don’t know quite what it is that makes me put books down after starting them. Obviously being busy at work has had an impact – I rarely want to read at home after my brain is wired all day – but other than that I am curious as to why. The books that are on my “currently reading” list are a range of classic and non-fiction books, some of them library books that I started but never got around to finishing. I know that with books like Kavalier and Clay and All Quiet on the Western Front the reputation of them being “classics” can feel daunting at times. I know that I have Anna Karenina, The Iliad and Heart Of Darkness among many others sitting on my bookshelf for years, waiting for the right time for me to read them. Whether that time is when I’ve had my fill of puff, chick-lit/mystery books or when I’m in the school holidays ready to be challenged OR simply when I have the motivation to want to tackle one of these mighty works. Continue reading Gone With The Wind Part 1→
My year 8 class is currently studying a book that I studied when I was their age, and we are all loving it so much that I started thinking about the other texts that I enjoy teaching, and that I have (in my short career) used with a range of year groups and schools.
Tomorrow, When The War Began
My year 8 class is in the middle of a comparative essay assessment for this text. We read the book, watched the TV show and the film over the last five weeks (plus school holidays). TWTWB is a novel that I really got into when I was in high school, and it is a book (and series) that is so unique in its plot, writing, characters, themes and issues. That idea of “what would you do if your country was invaded” is something that should seem inaccessible to teenagers today. But the way that John Marsden tells the story of Ellie and her friends is so compelling and vivid, so emotional and raw and above all else real, that I think it uniquely appeals to teenagers. The group of characters all have their flaws and are so different that I think everyone can identify with at least some part of a character. I used to live near a local airport, and whenever I read book one and then heard the planes flying at night, i would freak myself out so badly!
This is also a series that I can never put down; once I read the first book I often read the other six within the week, and the same happened when I was teaching the book this term – I spent the first week of my holidays engrossed in guerrilla warfare and teenage terrorists.
The Princess Bride
My year 8s looked at this movie at the start of the year, looking at characterisation, genre and film conventions. I adore this movie, and (selfishly) as a teacher I don’t like to teach texts that I don’t know or like. So when the opportunity came up for my year 7s last year to start looking at narrative conventions and characters, I had the idea to show them this movie. They loved it, after complaining at first that it was sure to be an old black and white movie, if it was made in the 80s.. I got them to do a character analysis on how one character in the story changed as a result of the events in the movie, some of them crafted some exquisite responses!
I have also read the book, which quickly became one of my all time favourites as soon as I started reading it.
The Outsiders I first read The Outsiders when I was in year 10. I was amazed that such a seminal, rite-of-passage text that resonated with my male classmates was written by a girl no older than I was (at the time). Since then, I have used that text with my mostly male, disengaged classes. I have found that they identify with at least something in the novel, whether it is the loyalty and devotion of the three Curtis boys, the hero worship of Dallas Winston or the lonely bravado of Johnny. I think The Outsiders is a book that you could study on many levels; whether it is to introduce themes and issues as I did this year with a hard year 10 group, plot and conflict with my year 9s last year or parallel characters and debating with my year 9s in my first semester of teaching.
The Outsiders was one of the first books that I remember reading in high school that I know have had lessons stay with me into adulthood. It was Ponyboy and Johnny that I turned to when facing my first novel study with my first “smart” class, and it is the lessons that they taught me that I try pass on to my students.
This one is a bit more personal for me. I saw this movie with my brother and my dad at the movies, and I left crying and proud to be South African. As an English text though, I think that Invictus has a lot to offer. It explores issues of racism, class systems, sports, politics, history and civics. I first used it with a hard year 10 class last year, and they looked at it more as a film study, with issues and themes the main focus. My year 10 class this year was very similar. We had previously watched a documentary called Pacific Warriors (my class has a lot of rugby specialist program kids) looking at the issues of inequality and funding in sports. I think the kids get a lot from Invictus, from looking at a moment in history and events that seemed too unreal to be true, to being able to watch a good sports movie.
I also like to teach it because it allows my students to get to know me a bit better. My family lived through a lot of the circumstances in the movie. My granny was a great hockey player who was not allowed to represent South Africa because of the colour of her skin, my mother was a great ice skater who was on her skating team as one of the “token” two coloured girls, and my grandpa would constantly talk about how great Madiba was. The movie is very real for me even though I have never really lived in South Africa, and I think lets my students see me as an actual “person” with a history and heritage that I am proud of. We also have a giggle at me being near tears at the end of the movie EVERY. SINGLE. TIME i watch it!
Guardians of the Galaxy
This one less as a “study” text, more as an “end of term” text. I have shown this movie at the end of terms since it came out, and every single class i have shown it to (8,9,10,12s) have enjoyed it. I adore it, and i think it’s perfect in its quirkiness!
Hope your Friday is less chaotic than mine! Would love some suggestions for go-to English texts, my tendency to stick to the familiar can at times be limiting…
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Still I Rise
Maya Angelou, 1928
I loved this poem before I ever knew I wanted to spend my life with words. Sweet dreams beautiful woman.
Just a quick one for now, life has both treated me fairly and unjustly in the past month or so. I have been fortunate enough to get some English relief work for the end of term one, only to be rejected for that very job when I applied for it. It has been a very emotional, gruelling period. I put everything I had into those students for the short time I taught them, which only served to remind me that this makes me so happy, that it is what I love doing, and that I am excellent at it no matter what. And for the record, I was rejected for the job due to my “lack of experience.” Bogus excuse but one that will rear its head time and time again until someone decides to give me the very experience I seek.
All my fantastic teaching has left my “to read” list growing higher and higher, so I thought I would share a few that I am hoping to tackle while in between jobs.
I’m currently in the last few chapters of the most recent Sue Grafton, so hopefully get that done tonight and get stuck into the next one on my list! I am looking forward to getting back in touch with my books, even if it isn’t technically touching them (I predominantly use an ereader now). My Goodreads Challenge goal for the year is 100, and so far I am sitting on 36 which is eight books ahead of schedule. Not bad, but by my usual standards fairly average!
I love Shakespeare and I loved this, has inspired me to write some of my own stuff on my favourite plays and lessons from his works. I recently watched Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing which just blew me away, having not read the play beforehand but instead reading along with it while watching the movie. Right this second, my favourites are probably Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest, but that will probably change by next week!
Hope you’re having a good one!
It's useful being top banana in the shock department.