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teaching

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.

Pi for Everyone!

Happy π Day!  If you are a numbers geek, you might already know when this day is celebrated. If you don’t, it’s on March 14, which has been designated as National Pi Day (made official by Congress on March 12, 2009).  Pi Day is celebrated all around the world and has a special place at The Beekman School, as well.  I started celebrating it a few years ago, as it was the perfect opportunity to share my love of math, pi, and pie with the students at Beekman.  

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. 

Beauty in Simplicity: Why I Teach Hemingway

The first beautiful thing about teaching Ernest Hemingway’s short stories is that a teacher is pretty much guaranteed that every student has read the assigned story by class time. That’s because Hemingway is so readily accessible, so seemingly simple. In fact, when I teach “Indian Camp,” the first story in the collection In Our Time, I tell students, with a straight face, that Hemingway wrote like a nine-year old.

History on Repeat

I’d like to believe that everything I say has great meaning, especially when it comes to my children and my students. My words of wisdom may guide them; it may help them find their footing.  However, most times, what I see as my greatest advice (“don’t touch the hot stove,” “actually study for your test,” “don’t just continually refresh your Twitter feed”) are words not heeded. Children must try running really fast in rain boots to learn that enormous cracks in the sidewalk will actually trip them and students have to learn from their own mistakes. We all must learn from our own mistakes.

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