Written in the Kitchen Sink

New Yorker.
English Teacher.
LDR Conquerer.

Being a middle school teacher, I rarely teach the books I’d truly enjoy teaching. There are a few that I like more than the rest (A Christmas Carol, The Diary of Anne Frank), but I’m pretty much stuck with whatever is in the textbook and/or closet, and all of the good stuff in the closet has been moved to 5th or 6th grade. AhemThe Giver

Anyway, as I was driving in this morning, I was still on a nerd-high from last night’s episode of Game of Thrones. It struck me how much I would LOVE to teach a course on the series. I can’t exactly walk into a classroom of 12-year-olds and start talking about the latest beheading, violent death, sexual escapade, etc. But the characterization in the books, the political intrigue, that feeling of uneasiness every time you turn a page, muddled morality… I crave a good discussion about all of that with a group of people. Maybe if I teach college courses someday, I can make that happen. For now… no way.

But I feel the same way about Harry Potter and I just don’t really understand why that’s rarely a part of today’s curriculum. Because it’s not “high brow”? Well, here’s the thing… New York has asked us to read A Narrative in the Life of Frederick Douglass in 7th grade. I did it with my 8th graders this year before it was moved down and it was a complete disaster. They weren’t ready for it and they couldn’t grapple with the text because they had to at least understand some of it to trudge through it. Common Core is asking us to think deeper? Then let me read Harry Potter and we can talk about blood purity, sexism, power struggles, gray characters, plot structure, etc. I understand elevating the expectations, but we can do that with so many supplemental materials and we can dig deeper in more accessible, age-appropriate literature. Frederick Douglass can wait for high school. 

Middle school is always the redheaded stepchild. The books that forced me to think deeper in middle school are now taught in elementary school or they’ve aged out of the system. The interesting stuff has been moved down and the texts that should be moving down to us aren’t, either because they’re too mature or they’re classic high school reads. Middle school English teachers (at least where I live) are now stuck saying, “what’s left for us?” I’m learning that the answer to that is “not a whole lot.” 

With the whole YA revolution, you’d think we’d be spoiled for choice. Nope.

1 year ago
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    Hear hear!
  7. wincherella said: I teach middle school and I am lucky that we can choose the novels or texts we want to use in our class. This year we have done The Hunger Games and The Hobbit as a class.
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