Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Jane knows best...

Ever since I read Pride and Prejudice as a senior in high school I have been in love with Jane Austen. It has become a joke in my family - sometimes a barbed joke - but it is well known that I have a deep appreciation and fondness for Ms. Austen. I've read all of her novels, novellas, short stories and many of her letters. I took multiple classes incorporating her work in college. My undergraduate thesis was entitled "Will the real Jane Austen please stand up: Representations of Jane Austen in contemporary society". It's fair to say that I'm an Austen nerd.

All the times I've read and re-read her novels I have related the closest to Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice - at least I hoped that I was like her. I wanted to be spunky, witty, independent and a challenger or social norms. Within my own sphere of influence, I think, I hope, that I've had a bit of success with this. At times I've felt like Eleanor or Marianne. Luckily, I've never really related to Emma.

My favorite novel is Persuasion. Anne Elliot is an underrated heroine, and she signals a shift and a new maturity in Austen's heroines. (Persuasion also has one of the best heroes and love letters) Lately I've felt more like Anne than I have Elizabeth. Often Elizabeth is held up as a literary archetype and representation of ideal moderate feminism when taken in the context of Austen's life. I feel Anne often gets the shaft. Her subtle maturity and consistency is often overshadowed by Elizabeth's youthful exuberance and wit. I'm definitely not claiming to have subtle maturity or even consistency for that matter. But I relate to Anne's challenges and admire how she deals. Yes, I get that she is a fictional character created by a woman long dead, but that's what good literature does, right? It speaks to us. We see parts of ourselves mirrored in the words and pages. It finds its way into the nooks and crannies of our heart and soul.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Up and down and up and down...

Teaching is a constant roller coaster. I went from a day like yesterday that was amazing to a day like today. Today was tough. It was the same lesson with a vastly different result. Some classes were outright hostile and others were completely apathetic. I think the apathy is harder to deal with than the outright hostility. I ended the day feeling dejected and drained. No matter what I did or said today, I simply couldn't get them to stay focused or care. Days like yesterday make me want to keep doing this. Days like today make me want to simply give up.

I wonder and sort of dread what tomorrow will bring...

Monday, April 27, 2015

What can I do...?

As a teacher, I love my content, and that is most likely true for most teachers. I am an English nerd. I love a good story, a well written sentence, a gorgeously chosen word. I think it is important for my students to have an understanding of how to communicate effectively both through speaking and writing. I hope to help my students learn to, if not love, at the very least enjoy reading. But more than any of that, I hope to help my students build character and broaden their view of society and the world.

We're starting The Crucible this week. For the past month or so I've been mulling over how I want to approach this play and make it interesting and relevant for my students. I decided that I would approach it as a mirror for high school, social groups, reputations, bullying etc. To start us off, today I had my students write a journal response about reputations and then we had a class discussion.

From the get-go, my students surprised me with their thoughts about reputations and social groups. I had predicted that students would care a lot about what their peers thought of them and about their reputations at school. To my surprise, almost everyone said they worried more about what their teachers thought of them than how their peers viewed them. It was a reminder to me that even the most stubborn and difficult of students still wants their teacher to think well of them. Now, of course, this will not apply to every single teenager that crosses my path, but it was a good reminder to me the majority want to do well.

My 4th period blew me away. In the course of our discussion on reputations, a student made the observation that there is a double standard when it comes to girls and boys. Up until this point I'd been mostly moderating the discussion, but letting the students take it where they wanted. As the class continued to talk about reputations and gender, I noticed it was, with one exception, the boys talking about the girls' collective experience. I found it interesting that the female students in my class had, in essence, surrendered their voice. They were allowing their male peers to describe their female experience. I let it continue for a few moments before I stopped the conversation and asked them two questions.

  • Who was doing all the talking? (the boys)
  • What/who were they talking about? (the girls' experience)
The class was silent for a few moments before the boys started chiming in and explaining why girls don't speak up. The most vocal of my female students continued to attempt to share her thoughts, but her voice was drowned out by her male peers.

Again, I stopped the class. I told the boys that for the next five minutes they weren't allowed to talk. I wanted to hear from the ladies in the class. Even at that point only two-three girls spoke up out of 10. One girl said she doesn't speak up because people don't take her seriously. She said a guy can make the same comment that was dismissed when she makes it, but is praised or considered when a boy makes it She continued to say that boys often don't let girls finish their thought or will shut them down right away. 

Up until this point, my male students were seriously struggling to not speak. They were raising their hands and I had to remind them multiple times that it wasn't their turn to talk. One student stood and faced the wall to prevent himself from talking. When my female student made the comment about getting shut down, a male student couldn't contain himself anymore and interjected "We do not!" quite vehemently. While that got a few chuckles from the class, I was so impressed by my students' willingness to discuss these issues AND to honestly consider their complicity in the accepted sexism of our culture. I think some of my male students were truly disturbed and they wanted to know how to fix it How can they change it? That lead to an interesting (student-led) discussion on privilege. 

Sometimes the weight of the responsibility I have to these young men and women presses down on me. At the end of class one student, a young man, looked at me and asked (expecting an answer), "What can I do?" 

I'm not sure what I told him is the right answer. I mean, what is the fix to the gendered bias and sexism of our culture? I told him to be aware of privilege in all its forms and to stop and think about those who are silent. Why are they silent? Can you encourage them to to speak? I told all of them - male and female - don't let people take away your voice. Don't let anyone take away your truth.

And lest anyone think that we didn't talk about the content, I was able to  nicely tie the entire conversation back to The Crucible. We talked briefly about the Madonna/whore dichotomy and they got a crash course in feminist literary theory. We didn't talk about the historical and contemporary context of the play - but I think it was an hour well spent. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Summer reading list...

Earlier this week a student of mine asked me for a few suggestions for summer reading. She was currently reading The Scarlet Letter and wanted to know which "classic" she should read next. IT was actually quite fun to put together a list of books that have stayed with me. Some of them I want to now go back and reread.

I started with a regular sized post-it note. Three post-its later I realized that was illogical and switched to a large, lined note card. When it became apparent that wasn't going to work, I typed the whole mess up. Since posting about this on Instagram (because that's how I roll...) I've had several people ask for a copy. SO, what follows is what I gave to my student. And I'm proud to say that yesterday she came to class, fresh from the library, toting a copy of Anna Karenina under her arm.

I'd love to get suggestions from ya'll of books to add or that I may have forgotten to list.


So, I may have gone a little overboard, but I started writing titles and I would think of another title, then another and another... It was sort of a domino effect. Not all of these titles are “classics” in the sense that they’re really old, but they’re classics in the sense that they’re good books.

Classics – European
*Anything by Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion are my favorites)
*Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
*Villette – Charlotte Bronte
*Wives and Daughters – Elizabeth Gaskell
*The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
*The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins
*The Importance of Being Earnest – play – Oscar Wilde
*Lord of the Flies – William Golding
*The Scarlet Pimpernel – Baroness Orczy
Pygmalion (play) – George Bernard Shaw (the movie My Fair Lady is based on the play)
*Night – Elie Wiesel
*The Four Feathers – A.E.W. Mason
*Anna Karenina  - Leo Tolstoy (Russian – Russian authors can be hard, but good story)
*The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
*Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

Classics –  American
* My Antonia – Willa Cather
The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass- Frederick Douglass
*Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
*Short Stories of Edgar Allen Poe
*The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Narrative of Sojourner Truth – Sojourner Truth (memoir)
*To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
*Animal Farm – George Orwell
*The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
*East of Eden – John Steinbeck
*Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou (African American Literature)
*Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston (African American Literature)
*A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith
Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison (African American Literature)
The Things They Carried  - Tim O’Brien (contemporary)

* Books I have already read. The others are on my list to read. Many of these books have film (sometimes multiple) adaptions. Many of these may also be available for free download or from Barnes and Noble classics series for $3-$5 apiece. The county library will definitely have most, if not all of these titles.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Pardon the dust...

So, I have most definitely fallen off the blogging bandwagon. Sorry, folks. Life just sort of has a way of taking control. So in true, Kelly fashion, we're going with a list today. I do love my lists...just ask my husband.

1. We're so, ridiculously close to the end of the school year, without it actually being the end of the school year. We're all getting a little trunky - and the deceptively, gorgeous spring-like weather we've been having as of late, is most definitely not helping with that.

2. Scott and I have been married for four months - that seems a little crazy for several reasons. It feels like we've been married for much longer than that, but then occasionally something will come up that reminds us that we're still figuring this whole being married thing out. There have been some bumps and bruises along the way, and we definitely don't have all the answers, but being married is awesome!

3. I am officially teaching 11th grade IB/Honors English next year. The IB Program is somewhat similar to AP classes in that it is an accelerated, rigorous program, but that's about where the similarities end. I did AP when I was in high school, so I'm excited to learn about the program and take on a new challenge. It also doesn't hurt that I get to go to Seattle for a weekend in March for training. I also "get" to go to Texas next October for the second training series. I'll still be teaching regular 11th grade English and I'm pretty happy about it all. The transition to the high school hasn't been smooth sailing...far from it, in fact...but next year is definitely looking up.

4. Scott's mom is coming to help take care of the children of some friends while the parents are out of town. She'll be here for about a week and we'll get to spend some time with her. It seems a little odd that we haven't met yet, but unfortunately circumstances just haven't aligned for us. It'll be a crazy week for me with school responsibilities and such, but I'm very excited to finally met her!

5.  Also not helping with the feeling trunky is the trips we've started planning this summer. I am most definitely ready for summer to be here and to go have fun! Scott's family lives in Washington State near Portland and we're going to visit for the 4th of July. He proposed to me on the 4th of July at a lake near his parent's house, and our first date of sorts was to Cannon Beach. I'm beyond excited to go back and visit where this all started for us. He'll also get to show me around a bit more than he did last time we were there. We're also going to do a long weekend to Denver and possibly go to Cedar City for the Shakespeare Festival. That last one is a bit of a long shot, but it would still be loads of fun.

6. In our effort to keep a to a better budget, I've been doing quite a bit more cooking than I have done in the past. It was definitely hit and miss at first. Turns out I didn't really eat meals before I was married. I'd have a big lunch at school and then just sort of snack my way through the evening. We're starting to round out our meal rotation. I just need to give a shout out to whoever the genius is/was that invented the crockpot. We have two and they are in constant use. I've also started to freeze meals. It sort of makes me feel all grown up - funny considering I'll be 31 in a few months and I've been on my own for about a decade, but there you have it. I may start sharing some of the recipes we've done that we love...because dang...they're yummy and super easy. Most have 3-4 ingredients that you probably already have in your cupboard.

7. One of my most favorite things about Scott (and there are many) is that he enjoys reading. We've read books together. That was actually one of the things that first made me fall in love with him. The last one we finished was Unbroken. This weekend we started the first book in The Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher. It's definitely not something that I would have picked up on my own. It's sort of ancient-Romanesque fantasy adventure...? I don't know how to describe it, but it pulled me in within a few chapters. It's been fun to share different books with him and I can definitely see this continuing when we have children.

8. Valentine's Day was this weekend and it was low key. We went to Ihop and a movie. That may sound strange, but Ihop was our first date - of sorts. It was that or Buffalo Wild Wings and we decided to go for Ihop. I hope that becomes a tradition of sorts. We talked about the day we finally met face to face and what was going through our heads and just how far we've come. Like I said before, being married is pretty awesome.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Should be working...

The end of the quarter is this Friday, so I have a mountain of grading to do, plus "filler" lesson plans to make until our new books arrive next week. I have all of this work to do, so of course, I'm blogging.

The past two weeks of work free relaxation and family was much appreciated and needed. It was definitely hard to get my bum out of bed this morning. Two weeks off is just enough to lull you into a false sense of freedom. By the end of week one you've finally let go of the stress of work, but by Monday of the second week you start to feel that creeping, sinking feeling. You're never quite ready to go back.

I also discovered something that seriously surprised me. For as long as I can remember I didn't really want to be a stay at home mom. I wanted to work. I wanted to accomplish something tangible and great. That being said, I know many, many moms (working and stay at home) and the work they do with their children and in their homes is tangible and great. I, selfishly and naively, wanted "more". I didn't think I would enjoy being a stay at home mom...probably because I didn't think that I'd be any good at it. But being home the past two weeks and taking care of my family and my home, even if it is only two of us at the moment, brought me a lot of satisfaction and happiness. When I told Scott of my earth-shattering revelation - I think I may actually enjoy being a stay at home mom, if and when it is possible - he just said that doesn't surprise him. He had very insightful reasons as to why. I'm grateful for a husband that knows me so well and supports me so much.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

So sorry...

I've meant to blog several times over the past month, really I have. There's been stuff at work that's been difficult, I went to a really awesome Young Adult Literature conference (heaven for book nerds like me!) and many other things that I have meant to blog about, but have now forgotten about.

I guess the lack of blogging could mean that I'm out enjoying my life or something like that...?

Today is Christmas Eve. I've been looking forward to spending my first Christmas with Scott for months now. Yet, in all the scenarios I imagined, never did I expect to be sick. I've had a cough coming on for a couple of days, but Monday night it took on a life of it's own. We're talking chest-cracking, lung spasming, muscle clenching cough. Combined with a fever over 100*, dizziness, aches, congestion and nausea. It's been a fun couple of days. Yesterday I felt like taking a shower and thought the hot water and steam would help clear up some of the gunk in my chest. Note to self and anyone else out there that may try this...taking a hot shower when you already have a temperature over 100* is not a good idea. I got over heated, nearly threw up and almost passed out. I had pins and needles all over my body and I couldn't control my limbs. Scott basically had to carry me to bed. Luckily, once in the relative frigid temperature of our bedroom, things went back to normal. Nearly scared the living daylights out of us, though.

We have had a Christmas miracle, though. Other than a lingering cough and a little stuffiness, I'm feeling worlds better today. Which, means we'll still be able to go spend time with the family tonight and tomorrow.

While this was not how I anticipated spending my first Christmas married, I think we'll both look back on this as a good memory. Even though I've been feeling miserable and exhausted, I am so grateful for the sweet husband that has been taking care of me the past couple of days. Scott's patience and love the past couple of days have reminded me of the true reason for Christmas and why we celebrate. Christ was and is the best gift we could ever hope to receive.

Merry Christmas folks from the Borens! May you enjoy your time with friends and family and remember the reason for the season.