First of all...Shawn and I have been married 4 months as of today!! Happy "anniversary" to us! :)
As hard as it is for me to believe sometimes, I am almost finished with my 8th year of teaching English. (That makes me feel a little old!) Whenever I meet someone new and I tell them that I teach high school English, I almost always get one of two reactions. Either the person's eyes light up and they say, "Oh, I loved English when I was in high school!" Or the person sort of grimaces and says, "Oh, I'm sorry." That second reaction is often followed up with, "Do you still make kids diagram sentences?" (By the way...no, I don't...although I personally actually loved diagramming, it's not normally done anymore.)Yes, there are lots of perks to teaching (namely things like summer and winter break). However, for many reasons, teaching is hard. One of the most difficult things for me is that I'm teaching a subject that I truly love. So on one hand, I get to spend my days talking to teenagers about literature that I find beautiful and fascinating. On the other hand, the majority of those teenagers either don't get it, don't like it, don't care about it, or some combination of those.
My 9th graders are beginning to read To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Personally, I think that this is one of the best American novels ever written. Both of the story lines (that of Boo Radley and that of Tom Robinson) are powerful. Atticus Finch is a true American hero. Harper Lee's writing style is full of sophisticated wit and sly humor. Just about every time I read this novel, I discover something new that I hadn't caught before. And yet, sadly, most of my students don't care. Many of them will read the book, only because I tell them they have to, and most of those won't read it carefully enough to pick up on Lee's nuances and subtle undertones. Many of them will skim the SparkNotes (similar to Cliffs Notes), and think that "counts" as having read it.
I just have to remind myself that there will be a few students who will begin to grasp just why this book is read in the majority of high schools in the United States today. Maybe a few of them will read it again as adults. And maybe, just maybe, a few students will go so far as to say that this is a book that they love. And that's why I teach high school English.