Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Upon Reflecting...

I see my other friends striving for business degrees and looking for jobs that suit them monetarily. I sometimes look at my life and think I've made the wrong choice. But once I speak up to myself I can finally hear my own voice. I don't care about making a million dollars (sure it would be nice) I care about making a difference in the world. Helping the American youth see the beauty in literature and the power it holds in life. Literature has literally inspired millions, caused wars, and bonded humanity. It is my privilege to be a teacher of such a subject.

This class has taught me to look outside of the box when it comes to the teaching field. The old methods aren't working, test scores are plummeting, and students are disinterested as ever. I've also learned some strategies to incorporate in my own classroom for the betterment of my students. For instance, literature circles are an awesome tool to use in the classroom. They are mini book clubs for the young! I feel once you have your class involved in lit circles then they will truly come to love the book itself. Instead of viewing it as homework students can view reading as fun. I've learned to engage students in anyway possible and getting them interested. If that means I have to come to class dressed up like Julius Caesar to help them comprehend the Shakespearean play...I'll do it. But, I have learned to be extremely prepared as a teacher. Preparedness is key in the classroom. If you do not know the material then your students will lose faith in your skills. However, it is OK to tell students you are unsure of something because knowing when to ask for help is a powerful skill. My philosophy of literature is as a follows: I believe literature and the humanities help define our roles as human beings in order to gather a better understanding of others we must enter their realities. Literature is essential to strong development in every person, and believe reading is a tool to enlighten students.

My performance in the class has taught me to slow down and be willing to change your ways. Teaching is an experiment and sometimes we have to shift things up to receive a better result. If you are unwilling to stop and reflect then what good will come in your classroom. Self-evaluation is pertinent to a stronger and better you. So I've learned to reflect on the classroom and be willing to change. Also, my performances along with others have taught me that the classroom does not have to be straight lecture. The classroom needs to be jam packed with fun and interesting aspects to garner student involvement. The group teach taught me that dealing with peers will be important to developing strategies in your classroom. If you place yourself with a great group of colleagues the feedback they will present to you may be vital to classroom enhancement.

So where am I as a teacher of English today? Well I am in the process of fine tuning myself and learning my own classroom identity. Before I can learn my student's diverse identities I need a strong grip of myself. I am in process of being a sponge that absorbs any potential strategy I find helpful for my classroom. I consider myself beginning to be a teacher of English who incorporates books, poems, stories which increase my students comprehension of others along with the reality of life. I want the information presented to transcend the classroom and I want students to say: "I learned so much in that class, including becoming a better person."

My Playlist

Let It Be by The Beatles

When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer. let it be.

Let it be, let it be, .....

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, .....

Piano Man by Billy Joel
It's nine o'clock on a Saturday
The regular crowd shuffles in
There's an old man sitting next to me
Makin' love to his tonic and gin

He says, "Son, can you play me a memory
I'm not really sure how it goes
But it's sad and it's sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man's clothes."

la la la, di da da
La la, di di da da dum

Sing us a song, you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we're all in the mood for a melody
And you've got us all feelin' all right

Now John at the bar is a friend of mine
He gets me my drinks for free
And he's quick with a joke and he'll light up your smoke
But there's some place that he'd rather be
He says, "Bill, I believe this is killing me."
As his smile ran away from his face
"Well I'm sure that I could be a movie star
If I could get out of this place"

Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Now Paul is a real estate novelist
Who never had time for a wife
And he's talkin' with Davy, who's still in the Navy
And probably will be for life

And the waitress is practicing politics
As the businessman slowly gets stoned
Yes, they're sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it's better than drinkin' alone

sing us a song you're the piano man
sing us a song tonight
well we're all in the mood for a melody
and you got us all feeling alright

It's a pretty good crowd for a Saturday
And the manager gives me a smile
'Cause he knows that it's me they've been comin' to see
To forget about their life for a while
And the piano, it sounds like a carnivore
And the microphone smells like a beer
And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
And say, "Man, what are you doin' here?"

Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

sing us a song you're the piano man
sing us a song tonight
well we're all in the mood for a melody
and you got us all feeling alright

Man On The Moon by Kid CuDi

Alright run it
I never gave a fuck
I never a fuck about what niggas thought about me
I mean I did but like fuck it you know what I'm sayin
You gon' love me man
You gon' love me man

They can't comprehend
Or even come close to understanding him
I guess if I was borin they would love me more
Guess if I was simple in the mind
Everything would be fine
Maybe if I was jerk to girls
Instead of being nice and speakin kind words
Then maybe it would be ok to say then
I wasn't a good guy to begin with

But my mind is all crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy...
They got me thinkin I aint human,
Like I came in from above, above, above, above...
Feelin like a airplane in the sky
But then they say I'm crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy...
They got me thinkin I aint human,
Like I came in from above, above, above, above...
Feelin like a bird sittin high high

I be that man on the moon
I'm that man on the moon
And imma do what I do so
Do you hey hey
I be posted with my blunt and a brew my dude
I'm that man on the moon
I'm up up on the moon

Close my eyes, hide in the dark
It's a curtain call, come on come all
All I do is try to make it simple
The ones that make it complicated
Never get congratulated
I'm somethin different in all aspects
Don't want a woman just to love her assets
I Still wife her up even with her flat chest
The type to get hurt
But that's the past tense

My mind is all hazy, hazy, hazy, hazy...
I be thinkin that I'm wrong,
Cuz they used to call me lame, lame, lame...
My swag was a little different
But then my mind is hazy, hazy, hazy, hazy...
I be thinkin that I'm wrong.
But they the ones who lame, lame, lame, lame...
I got the last laugh nigga

I be that man on the moon
I'm that man on the moon
And imma do what I do so
Do you hey hey
I be posted with my blunt and a brew my dude
I'm that man on the moon
I'm up up on the moon

Monday, March 28, 2011

Shakespearean Role Models?

    The article I decided to read focused upon the various characters present in Shakespeare's plays. The author describes these characters as role models even though a good bit of these characters are negative people. But, regardless I feel the reason Shakespeare has remained so relevant is due to the universality of his plays. His plays have remained increasingly popular in all areas of the world for their universal messages. He presents us with characters that are larger than life and maintain roles of power. The audience sees the internal struggles these characters have with their positions of power or the others trying to gain power. For instance, in The Merchant of Venice we see Portia, a wealthy female, left alone due to her Father's death. But, she is a strong powerful woman who does not feel the need to acquiesce to a man. However, subjected to her Father's proclamation she must succumb to his process of getting a male suitor. I think she would be a good role model for young women because she is intelligent, beautiful, and tenacious. She is by far the smartest person in the play and uses that to her advantage. I'm sorry I wandered onto a tangent about The Merchant of Venice, but it is my favorite Shakespearean Comedy.
     Last semester, I began my first Shakespeare class with a notoriously hard professor. Before the semester started I was dreading this class and was ignorant of most Shakespearean works. However, the intense work and the powerful attitude of my Professor helped show me the light. I now understand why he is considered the best and how his plays are extremely relevant in today's world. You just have to dig a little bit deeper than most texts. Flick on the TV and you will see the many shows that are based on Shakespearean plays (e.g. Sons of Anarchy, Star Trek). Therefore, Shakespeare's works cannot be ignored.
     Also, I definitely think his characters act as a great models, but not necessarily role models. They are faced with huge challenges and either rise or fall to the occasion. The adverse situations can give excellent leeway into discussion with your class. Life is full of struggle along with happiness and why not explore intense themes of decay, corruption, and power with the best possible material available. Once students begin reading Shakespeare they will see the universality they hold in the world today. It just takes one teacher to enlighten them.

Click here to learn more about :
Shakespeare in American Life

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Decline of the Literate Culture

      I chose to read the article "Decline of the Literate Culture" by Mark Bauerlein and Carol Jago from Mark's website. This article made me question my ideas about American culture. Why has literature become so devalued in our society? Teenagers want almost nothing to do with it unless the novel contains online lingo. Maybe parents are to blame for this decrease in literary culture. They go to work all day from 9-5 and when the parent arrives home they ignore their kids by allowing them to play the newest video game console. This sickens me, sickens me. Yeah, I said it twice. When has playing Super Mario become more important than reading Hemingway? Literature teaches us amazing life lessons and wonderful values; students cannot learn values from Call of Duty Black Ops. So with this decrease in literary interest comes a decrease of human values. Teenagers are increasingly disrespectful, rude, and antisocial. Maybe reading Tuesdays With Morrie would be more beneficial than watching Jersey Shore. So as future English teachers how do we compete with technology? Well you could incorporate technology in the classroom through laptops/computer based classrooms. Students could be asked to respond on discussion boards online because they are sitting in front of a computer regardless. We could ask students to start an online book club with some of their classmates in order to facilitate more outside reading and discussion. I think we just have to be willing to implement new ideas because the old ones aren't working. I see the classroom as a trial and error environment, so experiment! Try different techniques and read all the latest teaching articles.
      With this decrease of literate culture comes the decline of society, and this is something that must be stopped. As educators we must work with parents, colleagues, and administrators to motivate students to open a book. Is Facebook going to make students better people? Or will reading stories about other cultures from different perspectives. As a teacher I do not want to simply bombard my students with information, but I want them to transform into better individuals. If we can have students to view the world from another point of perspective then we will have one more enlightened person. It is quite unfortunate the world is becoming an increasingly ignorant place where literature is devalued. I know students don't necessarily want to read classic literature, but I didn't want to play soccer at first until I got involved. There are so many things we don't like until we try it. There are so many novels I didn't want to read, but once I did I became a better person. So we need to encourage and push students to read no matter how much they disagree. Our society depends on it.
Just for a laugh, here are some great screen shots from The Great Gatsby Super Nintendo game:
Sick graphics, bro.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Ripple Effect

     This week has made me question myself more than ever and how far I am willing to go for a work of literature. In my opinion, the most challenged pieces of literature are always the best works. The are composed of powerful themes that ask the reader to examine their own lives and understand the world from a new perspective. So when I asked myself how far I was willing to go for a work of literature. My answer: I am willing to fight for something I believe in. I refuse to acquiesce to censorship and succumb to their arbitrary whims about certain literary pieces. If you are in the teaching field you must be passionate about your subject or you will be left with nothing. If you cannot fight for what you believe in then you would be better off changing your major. I have always known I wanted to be a teacher since 1st grade and I have a passion for helping young minds. I believe if we exclude certain works because of their controversiality then our classroom will be receiving a lower level product. I want to be the best I can be for my classroom but not be controversial just for the sake of being controversial.
    I also want to be aware of my student's wants and needs. If you have an accurate grasp of your class's needs then you should be able to see what literature suits them. Maybe you could hold a class poll for certain novels and whichever wins is the one they will read. I think this will to alleviate some of the stress caused by censorship. Another problem that has arisen is self-censorship. This permeates throughout classrooms more than actual censorship. Teachers see the effects of a colleague being censored and begin to self-censor themselves. Soon this quality becomes inherent and they begin to censor almost every aspect of the classroom. Thus letting the administration win. Once they get into your head there is no stopping the damage that may occur. Soon simple classroom exercises will be examined to make sure their will be nothing will insight outside censorship. Therefore, we must stand up for what we believe in or our teaching quality is going to drop significantly. If we become aware of our classroom needs then censorship will become less of an issue. We also must fight to get rid of self-censorship and work with future colleagues to promote the ideal learning environment for students; teaching controversial literature may be apart of the ideal learning environment. If we keep ourselves open to new ideas and reflect daily in order to become the best possible teachers.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Into the Night

Sleeping quarters in a concentration camp --how sad
    Wow. Wow. Wow. Those were the very words that flowed out of my mouth immediately after reading Night by Elie Wiesel . This novel focuses upon the tragic events Elie Wiesel was put through during the Holocaust. Traveling from concentration camp to concentration camp he is put through constant torture. I have always read about the Holocaust and even watched many movies/shows focusing on it. None and I mean none, have impacted me in the way this book has. Wiesel describes his journey in simplistic diction but the message was strengthened by such. No human should be put through the experiences Wiesel and his father had to tolerate. From riding in open roofed train cars with dead bodies to smell the burning flesh climbing out of the crematoria. Reading about such events have drastically altered my views of life; I cannot imagine actually experiencing such events. 

    However, I know majority of society accepts that the Holocaust actually occurred --but do they truly accept it? To be more specific.. Americans accept this event actually occurred but have not studied these atrocities outside of their 10th Grade History lesson. I would certainly love to include Night in my class curriculum. This memoir would open the eyes to so many students and I feel the impact would resonate with them forever. The themes of death, humanity, survival, and existence would be explored. I just hope I get the chance to teach many lessons on this story because its message is timeless. That we are all brothers regardless of race, religion, gender etc.  It would also be useful to draw their attention to genocide present in the world today.

     But reading this memoir has not just left me with feelings of despair and agony, rather I feel encouraged to make an impact on others. Wiesel calls for everyone to act because we are alive and it our natural born duty as humans. We must help others simply because it is the human thing to do. We must wake up from our own dreams like the children in the beginning of Night. Arise from our slumber and help others all over the globe. Ignorance is not bliss and we are called to help all people. In this crazy world we have people looking at themselves just like Wiesel, "The look in his eyes, as they stared into mine, has never left me." Let's prevent other people from having to endure atrocities that destroy ones soul for the rest of their life.
P.S. Oprah, you made an excellent book club choice. I mean your first memoir didn't go over as well; I think James Frey realizes that. But I'm glad you chose this memoir to enlighten the spirits of many Americans. Good job :)

Here is part 1 of an amazing interview at the Auschwitz death camp with Elie Wiesel. This is extremely moving.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Circle of Literature

The never-ending Circle of Literature.

   In the course of my life I have never been involved in a literature circle within the classroom. None of my teachers from Kindergarten - 12th Grade incorporated this technique. After reading these chapters it actually very depressing because they are so beneficial. I feel as if I missed out on an important aspect of the English education system. I went to Catholic School since pre-k and their methods are fairly rigid along with their similarities. I had innovative teachers that incorporated mock trials, had us create our own play, even had an faux Academy Award Ceremony. But it shocks me that none of my teachers included literature circles in the classroom. But it has given me further inspiration to bring literature circles inside my own classroom as some for of retribution for never experienced one. I mean sure my friends and I were all addicted to Harry Potter and discussed it quite frequently. But did we observe key themes, symbols, or ideas? Yes we did, but we did not analyze them as thoroughly like a literature circle. This is another reason why my critical thinking skills were not fully developed until I begun my college career. In all honesty, I can't even enjoy a movie like I used to because there are so many ideas running throughout my brain about what is happening in every scene.

   Moving on—I will certainly utilize literature circles within my classroom for their powerful nature. They give students the chance to delve further into works of literature and develop their critical thinking skills immensely. The teacher must take a back seat and further allow their students to run the classroom and take the class in their own direction. I feel most students will see this as an awesome opportunity to express themselves in a lighter atmosphere. Sometimes speaking in front of the whole classroom prevents certain students from speaking out of fear from being judged. In my further reading of literature circles we must offer students advice when selecting a book. I read about the five finger method: pick up a novel and begin reading anywhere and if you come to a part where a word or idea confuses you lift up a finger. If all five fingers are up at the end of the page then it may be too difficult (www.litcircles.org). So often students are drawn to something because of the cover but it may be a wrong choice for them as a potential reader. I think we need to remember literature circles are important to help inspire students... not to further confuse them!

   As future teachers we have the ability to help our students succeed! Implementing literature circles would help students on their future journeys. From sharpening their critical analysis skills to learning the importance of the written word. Not to mention their verbal communications skills will develop into powerful tools they can use for the rest of their lives. Our students want literature circles... I think they crave this type of learning. So let's give them what they want! I think we'll be shocked to see the improvements that come from this classroom tool.