Thursday, October 14, 2010

Love of Lit

I love the books I teach.  Love them.

The more times I read a book, and the more I analyze it, the more I love it.

Unfortunately, most teenagers don't loving reading books (or even passages from books) more than once--nor do they like analyzing.  They do it to appease me, but they really don't like it.

I often feel frustrated that I can't express to them how amazing the books are.  I try to help them see the themes and the symbols and the significance to real life, but they don't seem affected by it.  I've sometimes wondered if it's because they don't totally understand real life yet.

Right now, I am teaching Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  It's about broken dreams, friendship, alienation, and loneliness.  It is not uplifting--but it is a masterpiece.  John Steinbeck is a total genius.

Next, we will be reading To Kill a Mockingbird, which just happens to be my favorite novel of all time.  My favorite scene in the entire book is when Scout stands on Boo Radley's porch and finally sees things from his perspective.  She has learned empathy.

In the 11th grade curriculum, my favorites are One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and The Catcher in the Rye.  Both are controversial, especially with only one cursory read--but the more that I've studied these novels, the more I've come to love their main characters.  McMurphy and Holden are flawed men--but they are also good men.

I also love the poems I teach, like this one and this one.  I don't always understand a poem the first time I read it, but the more I study it, and the more I teach it, the more I fall in love.  Often, as I'm reading the poems aloud to my students, I get goosebumps.  And sometimes, lines from my favorite poems come into my head at random times to get me through a tough moment in real life.  Poems like this one.

Literature is amazing.  I feel sad for people who have never gotten a true taste of it.


  1. I get it. You're an English teacher so that you get paid to read, analyze and teach literature. Not to grade endless drivel (sorry, guys), or answer inane questions, or pull teeth to get teenagers to read, but for the love of BOOKS! And for the occasional spark you see lighting up the eyes of the otherwise often dull, waxy expression of disinterested high school students. I'll bet you're an amazing teacher, Rach. You've inspired me to get more at the library than Thomas the Tank Engine stories. Now? Finding time to read. :)

  2. Mmmmmm, I am totally with you on this one. Love a good book. Oh and To Kill a Mockingbird! SO good. Wish *I* could be in your class to analyze it. I would love to!

  3. I totally agree! But as a teen I didn't care about great books like this. Just about making out with some hot "bad boy" in the hall between classes. But maybe your students will be like me and go back and pick up those books several years from now and go "Holy crap! Mrs. Nielson was right! This book is amazing!" (Excuse the Mormon expletive.) :)

  4. I love all those books you mentioned too. I remember reading Death be not proud in an English class in high school and being BLOWN away. I am always commenting on how I love the books my students are reading in their English class and they always seem surprised that I have read them. Sometimes I think I should have been an English teacher . . .

  5. sounds like i may like of mice and men right now.

    i hate to say it, but i was one of those teenagers. though, when i actually did read what was assigned, i always thoroughly enjoyed the book.


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