Monday, February 6, 2012

Intellectual Consumerism

From Sociological Images:

"The cartoon, though, suggests that intellectuals have their own breed of conspicuous consumption, even as they criticize the Hummer drivers."

Enjoy this comic while I attempt to carve out time this week for an essay/ramble/article on the intersection of intellectual consumerism and anti-intellectualism.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

To Kill a Mockingbird

"I maintain that the Ewells started it all, but Jem, who was four years my senior, said it started long before that. He said it began the summer Dill came to us, when Dill first gave us the idea of making Boo Radley come out."
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Contrasting Representations of "Catcher in the Rye"

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Observation Day 3

Today I escaped the monotonous hours of listening to the same chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird in four consecutive class sessions. Today I…

Cut paper!

Today I….graded quizzes!

Today I…supervised lit. circles!

Today I realized, horrified, that 85% of an honors English II course did not bother to read the one chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird assigned over the weekend. Consequently, I realized lit. circles are a dreadful waste of time when hardly anyone has read the material. Instead of the higher order thinking and collaboration promised by all my teaching texts, I beheld the reality of one student summarizing the chapter while the rest frantically regurgitated the information to fill the required lines on their study sheet.

Team work meets reality. Scary.

Like every student teacher on the planet, I’ve read a lot of books on collaborative learning. I’ve written lesson plans where my future-teacher-self conducts a symphony of discovery among clusters of enthusiastic students. My file box has a section dedicated to different formats, methods, and handouts for guiding group work.

What college did not add to my idealistic file box was a battle plan for the moment I waded into those little clusters to supervise and guide their learning.

The class and I remain a little uncertain as to my status in the classroom. This immediately became apparent as I walked my rounds. The students felt no teacher-mandated need to shift their conversation back to the topic when I approached. In fact, the first group acted genuinely surprised when I asked them a question. As the hour progress I repeatedly beat my head against my limitations. For example, what do I do when a student offers a seemingly bizarre, unrelated response to a question and then asks, “Is that good?” My answer. “It’s a good start.”

And today was a good start for my teaching practice. Despite my struggles, I  saw the “lights go on” in a group of students as I prompted them to think about their own experiences with marginalized groups of people like the Ewels in To Kill a Mockingbird. It was a glorious thinking. When I told them so, two of them exchanged a high-five.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Virginia Woolf

Despite my love-hate relationship with feminist criticism and the terrible time I had reading Mrs. Dalloway, "A Room of One's Own" won my ever-lasting admiration for Virginia Woolf. It wasn't just her spot-on insight into gender politics and canon construction--though Woolf understood their connection all too well. Rather, Woolf captured my heart when she wrote,

"Thought--to call it by a prouder name than it deserved--had let its line down in the steam. It swayed, minute after minute, hither and thither among the reflections and the weeds, letting the water lift it and sink it, until--you know the little tug--the sudden conglomeration of an idea at the end of one's line: and then the cautious hauling of it in, and the careful laying of it out? Alas, laid on the grass how small, how insignificant this thought of mine looked..."

Sunday, January 29, 2012

E-Book of the Week

Every Sunday I'll post a free e-book over on the right-hand column. Keep your eyes peeled. Then each month I'll update and repost this list of featured books.

George Eliot, Mill on the Floss
Walt Whitman, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"