November 28, 2007

Don't Pick on My Book

According to one of my students, we are behind in our class because his friend, who is in another school in another part of the city, is studying Edgar Allen Poe right now. We aren't studying Poe right now, as we are studying The House on Mango Street by Cisneros.

I guess my student has seen a curriculum guide that I have not that actually details what work of literature should be taught at what point in the year. Ha! As far as I know, it doesn't exist. I explained to the student that I don't have to teach specific works. I have to teach specific skills.

Oh. Completely dejected he is.

What's the point of The House on Mango Street? This is the question I get from the boy who would rather read Poe.

What would be the point in reading Poe? That is the question I would like to ask him. Unfortunately, that would begin a pointless debate with a discontent, precocious 8th grader.

Feels like a dig to me. Poke the teacher. See if she bites.

After years of having to defend the literature we read in class, I'm afraid that I might enter each unit with insincere passion. No matter how much I love the work, I know my love will be constantly tested by that group of students who just cannot be pleased. Realistically, I suppose it is difficult to expect that every piece of literature should be loved by every student.

It's just that...well...

This student criticism of literature I love to teach is like relationship baggage that I carry around from book to book and year to year. I can't share all of my joy because I've been hurt in the past.

I blame it on To Kill a Mockingbird. I joyfully read and taught that book every year for seven years, often sharing my first time experiences of reading TKM when I was in 9th grade with my students. For every single one of those seven years, teaching that book was a long, painful fight with too many students. In the end, yes, I did have students who proclaimed it the best book they had ever read. Those were beautiful moments. And right behind the enlightened group, the rowdy, culturally inept would moan and complain in an attempt to destroy everything good and true in TKM.

Why be so cruel to destroy one's love for a book? Mean kids. It hurts. It really does.

Cisneros? Poe? Lee? Shakespeare? Seuss? What's the point in reading any work of literature. I'd rather not say. The work will defend itself if only given the opportunity.

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