Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Grant's wind-up bird mask

I hate it when I have a dumb entry that stays up there a few days. I'm not able to do much more than weekly updates lately, it seems. My days end late with dropping off young people around the city after practice, and I return home after 8pm and deal with the lesson for the next day. Sometimes, I surf over to CraigsList and look at couches for sale, but that's pretty much the extent of my recreation. In short, I'm really tired and looking forward to spring break.

However, things are good. The baseball team has begun 3-0 (2-0 regular, plus a scrimmage). Occasionally I have doubts about keeping a big team, but, on other days, it seems the right thing; today, for example, no outfielders showed up. One kid had to pick up his brother; a couple of kids had coach class and then didn't show up afterwards; another kid didn't give me an explanation; two are mending injuries. It was bizarre that all this only afflicted the outfielders, because the infield was two or three deep at every position.

With the 9th graders, we are at around Chapter 6 of A Lesson Before Dying, and the kids are loving it. It's really a great teach and a nearly perfect book for the 9th grade. Even To Kill a Mockingbird is a little tough for a few students (it's long, there are about 50 characters), but ALBD is accessible enough even for my 4th- and 5th-grade reading level students, but deep and resonating enough for my advanced students. It helps that I really, really love the book.

There's a moment in Chapter 6 when Grant has to decide "whether to act like the teacher that I was or like the n***** I was supposed to be" (Gaines 47). He is about to ask Sam Guidry, the sherriff, permission to visit with Jefferson, the death row inmate. Grant has already demeaned himself by entering the house through the back door, and is already humiliated by the white men making him wait for two-and-a-half hours. He can either act like the ignorant person they want him - as a black man - to be, and get what he wants, or act intelligent, and risk not getting what he wants. One method is an insult to him; one method is an insult to them. We read the passage together today, as Grant decides to use correct subject/verb agreement, as he decides to honestly answer how long he has been waiting, instead of smiling and saying "not long."

Kids got it, and today we're reading the Dunbar poem "We Wear the Mask" and will compare it to that passage, and discuss just how much of a mask Grant is willing to wear.

As for the IB Juniors, we are reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I'm loving it and I saw two Facebook updates from kids in the class saying how much they're liking it, too. They'd better. It's a 600-page beast (the longest novel, by 200 pages, that I've ever taught) and they'll be miserable otherwise for a long time.


Anonymous said...

Impressive. Especially the work with 9th graders.

Anonymous said...

Dude, have you guys ever had them read Huxley's "Brave New World"? In trying to be different (Two of the other MYP Bio teachers were showing "GATTACA" at the end of our DNA/Genetic Technology unit) I went and dug up the old 1980 BBC version of BNW (Starring the guy from 2001). I was impressed by the number of them that, in spite of the low res and flickering nature of the film, seemed to really get into the whole story. I know some schools have used it. What would you think of, in the future, using it in one of those cross-curricular thingies we are supposed to try and do in MYP?

-The Chaplain

Beverly Patt said...

Wow, what a way to engage your students! Keep up the great work.

Seeing as you are a teacher who cares deeply about teaching literature to our youth, you may be interested in checking out what our debut novelists group, The Class of 2k9, can do for your class. We are looking for classrooms that want to work with authors! Our novels are both middle grade and young adult and cover a broad range of genres. (To learn more about us and our books, go to www.classof2k9.com.)

Connecting with us could happen in lots of different ways, including an exchange of letters, a question and answer session on our blog (or on yours), a chat room or Skype visit, or when proximity allows, an in-person meet and greet in your classroom (which could also involve more classrooms, an entire grade, or a middle school or high school assembly). The best part about these visits is that they are free!

We also encourage you to enter our contests to win books for your home or professional library. Watch our blog for details: http://community.livejournal.com/classof2k9

We know that this time of the school year is busy and anticipate that the fall might be more appealing. We'd love to work with you or your students and look forward to hearing back from you! You can contact us at:

Susan Fine, author of INITIATION (Flux, May 2009)
Beverly Patt, author of HAVEN (Blooming Tree, Fall 2009