Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Work Clothes and a Question

First, the work clothes:

Then, the question:

What was the best book you studied in high school, and what was so great about it? I'm not sure how keen I am on the curriculum I'm teaching this year, and I'd be interested to know your experiences in the subject.

Oh, and P.S.? Wednesdays can bite me.


Kennethwongsf said...

I went to school in a country ruled by a quasi-Socialist government, so everything I read in high school was despicable, propaganda crap. But, in my teenage years, I bought and read a translation of an Indian epic called the Ramayana. It was a story filled with magical creatures, valiant heroes, cursed princesses, and bloody battles (between armies of monkeys, bears, and demons). That made me realize what literature should be, and eventually led me to seek a life in writing.

Mandy Sue said...

I have a hard time narrowing it down to just one. I think probably top two were (assigned):
The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

But I have to say, my favorite book in high school (not assigned) was
Pride and Prejudice by the one and only Jane Austin.

I know, I know, all traditional books, but I think they all have great messages.

Mrs. Chili said...

I don't remember loving much that I was taught in high school (as a matter of fact, my worst literary experience was Grapes of Wrath in Sophomore Honors English). The Scarlet Letter grabbed me, though - I do remember that.

My favorite books to TEACH, however, is a much easier question. Frankenstein tops the list. I'm also mighty fond of Hamlet and Othello, plus a bunch of sonnets. I've got a ton of short stories that I return to again and again for various reasons, and a ton and a half of historical speeches. I'm willing to share, too - just say the word and I'll flood your email in box with reading lists...

Anonymous said...

Oddly enough? I loved loved loved The Scarlet Letter and The Great Gatsby. Ooh also Cather in the Rye.

I really have no idea why I responded so positively to the Scarlet Letter as I'm usually not one for the 'classics'. To this day I'm still in love with it.

Still Jill B said...

errggh. The Scartlet Letter was NOT a hit in my high school, and I include myself in that perspective.
*Side note, did you know the Cliffs for the Scarlet letter are the best-selling ones? One of my college prof's wrote the notes, and agreed to sell them to Cliff's way back when for $100. He's kinda bitter.

I really enjoyed Cry, the Beloved Country. It was a challenging read, but it was different, and once I got into the style I really liked it. It had profound thoughts and messages, and introduced me to the idea that writing isn't all the same.

MB said...

That would totally be To Kill A Mockingbird, though I'm kind of an old woman. :) As and English teacher myself, I love The Bean Trees and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn!!!

Mayberry said...

I remember being very affected by Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown. But it's maybe a little ... NSFW for your school.

Of recent stuff -- check out The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

Mandy said...

Since I ended up being an English major, I love to read and never really minded most of the books we had to read.

Send me an email and I can discuss some of the books I've taught over the years and how they went over. It would be good to know more about your classes and curriculum if possible.

m dot eagles at telus dot net

Major Bedhead said...

I also hated The Scarlet Letter. And Red Badge Of Courage. Horrible books.

Books I enjoyed in HS:
Travels With Charley
Of Mice And Men
The Great Gatsby
Canterbury Tales

I read P&P on my own in 8th grade and loved it. I only wish we'd read it in high school.

Maggie said...

You are SO better dressed than me. I should take notes so that I don't look like so much of a hoosier all the time.

I remember having to read a TON of books in high school - during the year and for summer reading. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was one I still remember, and so is a book called JB. I think its not very well known, but I thought it was interesting -- it's sort of a modern day story of Job type thing (I went to a Catholic school).

Lara said...

kennethSF - glad you broke out of that cage, 'cause your writing is excellent.

mandy q. - LOVE To Kill a Mockingbird. it's amazing, but i think it's done in freshman english at my school. Pride and Prejudice is on my list to consider teaching, though.

mrs. chili - The Scarlet Letter is done junior year, for sure, and Hamlet is senior year, but i don't think we teach the others. i hated Frankenstein when we did it in high school, but i also didn't actually read it and had a horrible teacher. so, you know, there's that...

lspoon - blech, blech, and BLECH. sorry, kid, but i don't like any of those books. i actually had remarkably good experiences teaching them, though, considering how much i hated reading them.

jill b - i didn't know that about the cliff's notes. sad for your prof. as for Cry, the Beloved Country, i haven't read it yet, but i'll be teaching it in the spring. glad to hear you liked it! :)

MB - always heard good things about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but i don't even know what it's about. does that make me a lame english teacher? ;)

mayberry - i adore sherman alexie. i read Indian Killer in one of my lit classes at stanford. i'd love to teach him...

mandy - thanks much! will do. :)

major bedhead - ah, another vote for Pride and Prejudice. i'm just worried the boys will all hate it for being too mushy. :-P

maggie - ooh, that JB book sounds interesting. i'll have to look it up. thanks for the suggestion!

Anonymous said...

I don't remember reading much in high school--I do remember reading and really enjoying Lord of the Flies.

As an English teacher, some of my favorites to teach and that my children responded to were--Breath, Eyes, Memories
Monster--Walther Dean Meyers
Night--Elie Wiesel
To Kill a Mockingbird
Animal Farm

I taught in an Urban public High school and so had a little more freedom than you might at a religious school.

Lara said...

dawn - Night and Lord of the Flies are both on my curriculum this year.

you know, you all are slowly naming every book i'm teaching. maybe i shouldn't change it after all... :-P

Ali said...

you really need to join the flickr working closet pool.

best book in high school? Lord of the Flies. The Metamorphosis. Hamlet. The heart is a lonely hunter. Of Mice and Men. The Picture of Dorian Gray

Issa said...

Love the I can't wait until i can wear nice clothes again.

I had two....cause I went to a private school and took some awesome literature classes...Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, which is written by an African-American woman writer in the 40s and In the Time of the Butterfly's by um...Julia Alvarez. Both amazing books.

Lara said...

ali - ooh, good idea, i should! also, yeah, Lord of the Flies comes up in about a month. The Picture of Dorian Gray is a great one, too; that should go on my list. :)

issa - i gotta disagree about Their Eyes Were Watching God. it was one of my class's summer reading books, and i didn't like it at all. neither did the kids, unfortunately.

Cate Subrosa said...

To Kill a Mockingbird... and I'm 24 :)

Anonymous said...

Loved To Kill a Mockingbird and still re-read it to this day. I also really enjoyed Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, but it deals with some pretty heavy stuff. Senior year I liked The Sound and the Fury, mostly because I liked the challenge of figuring out what the heck was going on. The Bean Trees is great too.

Natalie said...

You know, for as much as I loved high school English, I can barely remember any of the assigned books that I actually liked. Lord of the Flies, definitely. Also A Prayer for Owen Meany, which might get top slot based on my reaction to it at the time.

I didn't dislike Shakespeare we read (Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Othello, Macbeth, and Hamlet - two or three times), but I probably would have liked it more if somebody had explained to me that not only was it written in verse and meant to be performed in verse, but that doing so added an additional data channel to the actor's communication with the audience. It wasn't until college that I had the privilege of having a trained Shakespearean actor explain (and demonstrate) how a) Shakespeare could be read metrically without sounding forced and artificial and b) paying attention to the meter not only gave the actor a clue as to how the line should be read (like implicit stage directions) but gave additional power to the performance. That was the moment I appreciated that Shakespeare is both a literary and a technical marvel, the moment I sat up and went, "Holy sh*t," and wanted to go brush up my Shakespeare.

Writing that, and looking back on my high school English classes, the truth is that I loved them more for the discussions we had than for the books we read. I actively detested far more than 50% of the books we read, but I had good teachers, who made it fun to learn how to critique a book whether we liked it or not, and interact with it on more levels than just, "Yeah, but the author's message is bullsh*t."

Mandy Sue said...

Also, I hated The Scarlet Letter and didn't really care for The Portrait of Dorian Grey. This may have been because (even though I loved my Junior & Senior english teacher) we had to do annotations on every page for a grade as part of the book report. Needless to say, even though I had finished the book weeks before, I was up 'til 3 am writing annotations in the the night before it was due! But still, annotations aside, it definitely wasn't a favorite.

I also hated The Awakening. Even though it's a short book, I couldn't help but yawn my way through the entire thing.

Mandy Sue said...

I'm curious what books are part of your curriculum that you aren't fond of?

A. Nonny Mouse said...

I remember really enjoying "Let The Circle Be Unbroken", but I have no idea what age range I was when I read it, the age range it is recommended for or the age range for which you are teaching.

I also really enjoyed reading about King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable. I know that was my sophomore year.

I was a nerd, so no guarantee it would resonate with your kids.

nutmeg said...

Love the long hair! And so proud of you for already thinking beyond the curriculum!

Ashley // Our Little Apartment said...

I loooooved the Great Gatsby in 11th grade. Mostly because our teacher pushed us like crazy and taught us TONS of literary analysis.

I learned more in that English class than nearly any other class. I still use it!

Anonymous said...

Loved: Catcher in the Rye (it is my favorite book), The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, Cannery Row

Hated: Brave New World (I wouldn't read this book again ever), Shakespeare

Kinda liked: Of Mice and Men, Great Expectations, Animal Farm, The Things They Carried, The Crucible

Love following high school: Poisonwood Bible

Anonymous said...

I know it's cliche but I loved Catcher in the Rye and it was the stand out book in highschool for me. That and the Great Gatsby.

But if I'm really honest, I was one of those Shakespeare geek heads and would choose that first if ever given an option.

Lara said...

mandy - it's not that i explicitly don't like some of the things in my curriculum. it's more that i'm not familiar with them, so i'm not sure how i feel about them yet. but a lot of them have been named here, which is a good sign. maybe i'll do a longer post soon about what is on the schedule for this year.

browneyedgirlie - you hated Brave New World?! how could you hate that? it's so good!

Lisa said...

I like how you rock the vest over the blouse thing. I haven't tried it yet because I feel it will come off all wrong on me.
That aside, I liked Charles Dickens "it was the best of times it was the worst of times" No idea why but I loved that book in high school. No one in my class did though so I'm not sure you should go with it....

Anonymous said...

First - outfits are very very cute.

Second - I'm a big book nerd and had the happy experience of liking a LOT of the books I read in high school. Some of my faves:
- In Cold Blood
- 1984 and Animal Farm
- Lord of the Flies
- Frankenstein

I think what made these books enjoyable were the high stakes involved, the character development in each and just really interesting, different stories.

Least Faves:
- My Antonia
- Heart of Darkness
- On Civil Disobedience

Couldn't get into those ones. Toooo slooooooow for me.

William said...

I was a big fan of Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mocking Bird, The Great Gatsby, and a bunch of the other classics that these kids will have rammed down their throats, but I'm also a big fan of Song of Solomon, anything by Italo Calvino, and The Alchemist.

But of any single thing I had to read for any class ever, nothing beats the short story "A White Heron". Blows me away every time...

Cute outfits =P

Hanlie said...

I have just read Catcher in the Rye and hated it! I'm so glad to see I'm not the only one!

I loved Hamlet and Animal Farm...

CityStreams said...

Jane Eyre would be on my top ten list. But I think it would be fun to throw in Twilight, too. So what do I know? I agree with another commenter that the books aren't as important as the atmosphere of the discussion. You can do a lot with a crappy book if you can teach kids how to voice their opinions.

Becky said...

Hands down best book ever: Ender's Game.
Runners Up: Siddhartha, Scarlet Letter, Middlesex (ok, this came out after high school but I think the material is great for high schoolers), Homer's Oddessey. Various Shakespeare. Pride & Prejudice (I didn't actually read this for school but lots of other people did). 1984. Fahrenheit 451. Brave New World.

I didn't mind reading "Heart of Darkness."

Books I would recommend be added to a curriculum: The Brothers K (about a family in the 60s, currently the best book I ever read), Running with Scissors, This Boy's Life, Catch 22, Shogun, Pillars of the Earth. If you can synchronize with history classes, these all work really well.

Hated with a passion that still endures today: Anything by John Steinbeck (makes me want to shoot myself). The Great Gatsby (soooo indulgent!). Catcher in the Rye. Zora Neale Hurston. Song of Solomon. Call of the Wild.

I have a list somewhere that one of my favorite english teachers gave me of books that should be read by all educated persons. I'll dig it up and see if I can recall anything more.

Becky said...

an addendum: some terrible, terrible books can be valuable teaching materials, as they tend to spur passionate discussion. i might relent on one of the john steinbecks for that purpose. more food for thought:

Lara said...

lisa - A Tale of Two Cities? really?! blech to that. (no offense.)

jackie - another vote for Frankenstein, eh? i'll keep that in mind. 1984 is senior year here, and Animal Farm is freshman year. Lord of the Flies is on my curriculum for this year.

william - Of Mice and Men isn't a bad idea, though it's american, so i probably have to leave it to the 11th grade teachers.

hanlie - you are most DEFINITELY not the only one. :-P

city streams - JANE EYRE IS THE BEST BOOK EVER. that is all. that's number one on my list of books i want to teach.

becky - i got to teach Ender's Game once a few years ago for 8th graders, and it was awesome. as for teaching good things from bad books, that's how i felt teaching most of my american lit curriculum two years ago. :-P

Profesora de espaƱol said...

In 10th grade I read Brave New World. I LOVED it. It draws you into their little crazy world. It was just great.

Please stay away from the Scarlet Letter! Everyone in my high school hated it, and all the students in my school now hate it!

sage said...

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and Macbeth by Shakespeare

flutter said...

actually? it will sound really weird but we studied the Song of Solomon in comparative religion and I fell in love

Teacha said...

I am tired of YOU looking so good for work. Why do you have to make the rest of us look so bad? ;)

I read Native Son and it was the best and longest book ever .. . it was the GREATEST thing I read.

I remember Scarlett Letter b/c there were so many issues to discuss.

Do NOT assign your students to read "As I lay dying" it was AWFUL. And hard to read at the high school level.

Lara said...

see, the thing with The Scarlet Letter is that it's one of the standards for american lit, so until that changes, every american lit course has to teach it. blech. :-P

anyone read Things Fall Apart? any thoughts on that one?

Anonymous said...

E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News.

Hemingway's Nick Adams stories.

T.H. White's The Once and Future King.

I couldn't stand The Scarlet Letter. English teachers out there, could you please explain why it is part of many school's American lit curriculums? That it is old and was one of the early so-called modern novels is, in my view, irrelevant to questions of merit. Why not more Twain or Longfellow's "Evangeline" or Melville or Harriet Beacher Stowe or Henry James or any of several dozen worthy replacements?

Natalie said...

I read Things Fall Apart as summer reading for a world lit class. That meant we got very little discussion of it, but I did like the book.

Mojo said...

Very few assigned books from high school stand out in my memory for a couple of reasons. First, most of them were underwhelming in the interest department, second and more important that was 30 years ago, and the various syllabi(?) slipped beneath the icy waves of memory long ago. And most of the books that I really liked weren't assigned for class. I'm pretty sure they weren't anyway. Orwell's Animal Farm was assigned my junior year. Arthur Miller's The Crucible my senior year. Lord of the Flies I remember... 1984 wasn't assigned (I don't think) but it should have been. Add in Huxley's Brave New World while you're at it. (And Che Guevara's biography too just fo rgood measure.)

I'm pretty sure you couldn't slip Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman past the school board, but if you can... Helter Skelter ... doesn't really fit a course. Pretty much anything by Frank Herbert other than the Dune trilogies. Then there's the Dune trilogies. (Some of Herbert's stuff may be a little too heavy for high school students though. I'd stay clear of Destination Void for example.)

But I keep forgetting. Most of what I read in high school? You're never gonna get approval for it where you work.


Mojo said...

Aack! I forgot...
The work clothes?
Not nearly as attractive as the girl wearing them.

Anonymous said...

The ones that come to mind are Jane Eyre, Ethan Fromme, To Kill a Mockingbird. It's been a long time since high school.

LOVE the work clothes!

tpiglette said...

I read Things Fall Apart my freshman year of high school. I don't remember it very clearly (I don't pretty much don't remember ANY of high school English very clearly) but I remember liking almost everything I read that year. I got to skip normal Freshman English because I took some test at the end of 8th grade (writing an analytical essay, which none of us had been taught how to do yet) that got me into Multi-cultural Literature with the upperclassmen instead. Terrifying experience for me, as you can imagine, but I had a great teacher and the class was good for me. (This was before my Honors Sophomore English teacher made me hate English forever. =P Sorry.)

Jessica R. said...

Hands down Grapes of Wrath, but that's possibly because my teacher rocked!
Love that second outfit! Looks great!

Anonymous said...

the bell jar - sylvia plath.

went to an all boys catholic high school, book was actually taught to us by a priest...given the school, the class, etc..., i thought it was a real ballsy thing to try to do. it was a good choice.

catcher in the rye - salinger

hell, i think we read everything salinger wrote. i know your thoughts on holden, but i'm a big fan of salinger so i had to mention him.

loved vonnegut's stuff but don't know if it was more entertainment than education.

i don't remember if it was in high school, but ishmael by daniel quinn is very good.

my school was (is) obsessed with joseph campbell.

i loved the stranger by camus. still do.

i loved candide by voltaire. don't know if i still do.

i think all you need is old man and the sea.

Anonymous said...

...and as a 1/2 irish kid growing up in nyc, a tree grows in brooklyn was kinda mandatory reading. very good.

...and bruce springsteen said "we learned more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school" and that's pretty much true, so buy these kids some springsteen, ramones, and the clash, spend an entire year on tom waits, and they'll be set.

Lara said...

rose - yipes, i can't handle steinbeck. fortunately, he's left to the 11th grade teachers. :-P

k. ramone - yeah, i'm sure my school would totally go for a year of rock albums. i'll bring it up at the next staff meeting. ;)

Z said...

The books I remember best were: Shakespeare (because really, you NEED to read Shakespeare in highschool, it's a right of passage!) and, oddly enough, "White Noise" by Don DeLillo. Also some random poetry by the Poet Laureate at the time who lived in my state - but that, I wouldn't recommend. It was... Odd.

Jennifer said...

Things Fall Apart was okay, but for African literature I prefer plays. The Lion and the Jewel is great, and I read that in high school. Death and the King's Horseman is also excellent, but even my college students don't really get it. Both those plays are by Wole Soyinka. My favorite book that we read in High School was The Handmaid's Tale, but that would almost certainly not go over well at a religious school. But you might look at other Atwood books, if you like her.

Run ANC said...

I didn't study it in school, technically, but how about A Prayer for Owen Meany? I have yet to find someone - boy or girl - who doesn't like it.

Anonymous said...

My senior year in high school I read the book Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane. Every senior that had my English teacher read it. I remember all of us trying to get out of our other classes so that we could go sit in the back of Mr. Pearson's room and read some more! I now love to read because of this book. I'm still not exactly sure what it was that had us all so captivated. I have read it twice since then and I graduated in 2002. I hope this helps!