This week was a literary week for me, although you would not have guessed that by the blog posts written. The highlight of the week, of course, was learning that I received my first choice class this summer at Lincoln College in Oxford. That has dominated my free thoughts for most of the week. I have ordered all of the books and should receive them by Friday which is perfect timing as our spring break begins on Saturday, March 13. The reading list is daunting – over 3,300 pages to be read prior to June 27 – but I did develop a reading schedule that helps me realize that this indeed a attainable goal. I plan to read Walden (Thoreau) over spring break and I hope to even have a bit of free time to also read a contemporary book or two.
I completed two books this week, The Cotton Queen by Pam Morsi and Fablehaven by Brandon Mull. I need to write reviews for these books, as well as for Still Alice by Lisa Genova, but I anticipate that this will not happen until I have a bit more free time during spring break. I have about 20 research papers to grade this week and that will probably take up the majority of my free time.
I spent some time working on my newest story idea. As I mentioned earlier this week, I will be teaching a Creative Writing class next year using the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum. I want to try to write my own “adventure” novel prior to the start of class (or at least be well on my way) so that I can adequately teach and sympathize with the students when they work on their projects. In reviewing the workbook I have realized that this is a very thorough process and will require me (and the students) to truly consider all possibilities in plot and character development. Just by reading through the worksheets I have started to formulate more detailed descriptions of my protagonist, antagonist, love interest and mentor; I have considered various conflict options and final resolutions. I hope to work a bit more on this project in the coming weeks.
I have also been spending quite a bit of time re-reading novels for the classes that I teach. We are about half-way through The Hobbit in 7th grade and the students are doing a great job of keeping track of the different races of middle earth, tracking Bilbo’s progression as an archetypal hero, and comparing his quest to the Christian walk (I teach at a private Christian school and this is a great way for the students to relate to the text). I would say that my favorite quote over the past couple of weeks comes from chapter 8: Flies and Spiders. Bilbo has just defeated the spiders on his own and has come to realize that there is more to him than he ever knew (but which Gandalf has known all along):
Somehow the killing of the giant spider, all alone by himself in the dark without the help of the wizard or the dwarves or of anyone else, made a great difference to Mr. Baggins. He felt a different person, and much fiercer and bolder in spite of an empty stomach…. (page 170)
I think this is such a powerful lesson for us all to learn. Bilbo is willing to go outside his comfort zone for the sake of others and in doing so he has begun to realize his full potential. His self-confidence has grown and, as we discover in the next scene, his companions respect him for the risks he takes on their behalf. Our little Hobbit is gradually becoming the hero of the story.
In British Literature we have progressed to the Victorian Era and are currently reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I am trying something new this year. I am having each student “teach” the class for 15 minutes. I know they have the necessary skills to do so, but I want them to realize it and gain self-confidence (hmmm….perhaps I can view my class as a collection of Bilbo Baggins: they do not think they can do it, but I believe they can; by nudging them outside their comfort zones they too will achieve their full potential). So far I have had 6 different “teachers” and they have all risen to the occasion. It has been so much fun and quite rewarding to see them in action. I always make sure that I follow up their lesson with my own insights, so that they are adequately prepared for the test, but for the most part the students are learning to teach themselves which, in all honesty, is what I want for them.
While there are numerous quotes that I love from this novel, for this week I will share the famous first sentence of the book (yes, the entire paragraph is just one sentence long):
It was the best of times, it was the worse of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities instead on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. (page 5)
I love the direct comparisons and the eloquent language that Dickens uses. My most favorite comparison is….The Spring of Hope and the Winter of Despair….a double comparison, if you will, that contains so much meaning in just 9 simple words.
My 9th grade class is reading Alice in Wonderland – setting their own pace, developing their own discussion questions, and creating their own final project – and then we plan to see the Tim Burton movie this Thursday afternoon. I think it will be a lot of fun.
I’m not quite sure what book I will read on my own this week, although I am leaning towards Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane. I saw the movie this week and absolutely loved it. In fact, the more I think about the storyline, the more fascinated I become: both in the story itself and in the way in which the author wrote it. While I would say the movie was highly suspenseful (I had no knowledge of the subject matter prior to entering the theater), I would not say it is scary. The language is what you would expect of an R-rated film that takes place on an island for the criminally insane, and there is one very brief scene involving male nudity. Otherwise, it was a suitable movie for a wide audience.
I hope you have a wonderful Sunday and are looking forward to a great week.