Tuesday, February 13, 2007

If you surrendered...

Today I found a quote by Toni Morrison (my favorite author and personal hero), that helped me realize why my American Literature classes have been so boring and lifeless lately. She writes, "If you surrendered to the air, you could ride it." But the air this semester has been cold and indifferent, and I haven't been willing to make myself vulnerable enough to surrender to it.

For the past two weeks in American Lit, I've been forcing my students to attempt a New Historicist reading of Huck Finn. "Why?" you ask? Because I like New Historicism, that's why. But I probably wouldn't have liked it in high school, and I can tell you that my students find it difficult, restrictive, and repetitive. So I'm going to gently let it go, and hopefully they're proficient enough with it that they will be able to use when and if they ever want to.

On the flip side, I've been loving my English 10 class lately because it's full of dramatic kids, and we're performing dramatic interpretations of Macbeth. I finally surrendered to their energy a little, so we're all riding along just fine. I think with my honors students I feel more pressure to familiarize them with every possible tool they'll need in their A.P. classes, and so their creative, fun sides get pushed aside too often. When I spend hours and hours lesson planning, I sometimes find that perfect, fun way to trick students into learning without their feeling a thing--much like an expert nurse gives a painless shot. And yes, it almost always centers on constructivist learning.

I'd like to surrender to the energy of my American Literature students and let them excel, but I just can't seem to tap into them this semester. Some of them seem to have no energy, and others shut me out. Some of them sit quietly and give me this look as if to say, "YOU figure it out. I'm full of undisclosed talents, but I'll be damned if I'm going to just come out and tell you about them. It's your job, lady, so step up already." But how do I begin?