Monday, January 12, 2009

Musing Monday - 1.12.09

Today's Musing Monday asks:
How did you react to assigned reading when you were in school/college? How do you think on these books now? What book were you 'forced' to read when you were in school that you've since reread and loved?

I think I will use this question as a springboard. To be honest, I do not remember my high school required reading - or at least much of it. I just remember that it seemed one day we were discussing basic comprehension and the next day we were expected to analyze symbolism on our own. I don't remember being taught how to analyze - just the expectation. Being a very "black and white" person, the interpretation of symbolism did not come natural to me and I remember thinking how stupid I was. As much as I loved to read in elementary school, I was turned off to reading in high school.

I was a French major, so while we had to read French literature, most of our efforts were focused on the proper translation rather than the subtle analysis. I took no English classes in college.

Fast forward a couple of decades and here I am teaching high school English (don't ask - it is truly a God thing). I am expected to teach students what I myself didn't understand at their age. Thank goodness for the internet. I have vowed not to expect students to instinctively know how to analyze literature; I have vowed to try to learn right along with them. I first try to teach them how to discuss a book - then how to make connections with the story - then how to appreciate the author's word choice and writing style - then how to discern the character and theme development, etc etc. We take baby steps - not one great big literary leap.

The one "work" that I think I appreciate far more now than I ever did in high school is Shakespeare. In high school we came to class - were given our assigned parts - read the written words (no dramatic interpretation - no teacher interjection) - left and repeated the same thing the next several days. While I still do not totally understand Shakespeare (and I am convinced it will take me a lifetime to do so) --- I do try to make Shakespeare "real" for my students. This year we read Macbeth and we discussed each scene prior to acting it out. We had fun -- yes, fun --- with Shakespeare. I look forward to reading more of the Bard's works and relating these 400 year old stories to my own life in 2009.


  1. Yay! A new post! You've inspired me to renovate my humble blog. I even have you a shout-out!

    I remember Mr. Concilio (?) beating the symbolism thing to death with "Lord of the Flies." It almost wrecked literature for me, although I have to admit I did learn from the experience. It might be interesting to re-read it, but I have zero desire to do so.

    I've always found Shakespeare extremely difficult, if only because the language and usage is so archaic. But that's MY problem.

    Love the blog!

  2. In some books, I used to wonder if the author really meant all the symbolism we were being taught. Others, like Animal Farm, it was pretty obvious.

  3. I used to think it was awesome when we'd watch a film or read a book and the English teacher would tell us all this symbolism and stuff.. whether or not it was intended it was still interesting :)

    I'd never have found it by myself though!


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