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English

Oh, the Humanities!

I am an English teacher who is passionate about literature. Catch me in my AP class and you’ll see that I’m a superb lecturer (though I do stray from literature every so often; see my blog on why I teach Aristotle’s Ethics). In my standard English classes, however, as I have gathered experience over the last 10 years, I have moved away more and more from pure literature, and exposed my students to magazine articles (old and new), op-eds, and other types of non-fiction, like primary source documents such as historical memos, convention resolutions, and legal opinions.

Your English Teacher’s Role in College Preparation

A weighty concern on many teenagers' minds right now is, "How strong is my high school preparation for college?"  Certainly, part of the responsibility for college readiness lies with the student: to best prepare for college while in high school, should you take college-level classes in high school or utilize some other tool?

What to Do About Plagiarism

Plagiarism is one of those things kids know of, but are not sure about. They read something on the Internet and think, “Yes, that’s exactly what I want to say. This person said it better than I ever could,” and then they don’t know what to do. I put a note on a student’s assignment that said we need to chat about plagiarism. This particular student had been having trouble with this consistently the previous year. Because I would be teaching him again, I decided that I would begin a discussion of plagiarism right away.

Teaching Turgenev's Novella "First Love"

Like many of us, high school students are often attracted to stories with characters going through similar struggles and life changes. I have found some success teaching Alan Sillitoe's novella The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1959), whose 17-year-old protagonist from a working class home, Colin Smith, has been caught burgling and is sent to a reform school. Discovering Smith’s gift for running, school officials enter him in a cross-country competition.

Teaching Faulkner: A Snopes You Can Believe In

For me, the best way to teach William Faulkner is to begin with the Snopes, that ornery, duplicitous, barn-burning family of itinerant farmers, blacksmiths, bigamists and bank presidents.  Faulkner does not come naturally to most high school students, and he can be particularly hard to decipher for born-and-bred urbanites, too many of whom see his backwoods people as little more than players in a freak show. The key is to get students beyond a character’s eccentricities to his or her nobility.

When Students Tire of the Written Word

New Yorker essayist Joseph Mitchell once wrote, “When things get too much for me, I put a wild-flower book and a couple of sandwiches in my pockets and go down to the South Shore of Staten Island and wander around awhile.” It is the first line in “Mr. Hunter’s Grave,” which relates Mitchell’s discovery of an old African-American burial ground still lovingly tended by a local minister. 

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