Monday, December 26, 2011

Am I a Hack?

My apologies for the lack of blogging. The sprint to break, moving across town, and a friend's wedding really took it out of me Some time to reflect during break has me thinking about an issue that visited me often during the semester.

I'm guilty of talking up the hormonal teenager aspect of Romeo and Juliet, reading aloud the cursing in Of Mice and Men, and finding violent poems to share with my students. I'm not out to get their childhoods. Just their intrinsic motivation. And I keep coming back to one of the Big Questions I tell my kids to ask: Is this hack teaching? More importantly, is it good teaching?

I reject completely the view that we should treasure this young adults as little children and censor any texts that might make them angry or sad. But I am often reminded by how child-like they are as I was when one of my juniors told me that he looked forward to all the extra money he would have when he made $26,000 a year. These are people who need introducing into the adult world gradually.

Many of them already have at least one foot in that world. Most of my ninth graders could relate to a love so consuming it made you forget everything you held dear (including your previous love which also consumed you). The eleventh graders were not shocked by Steinbeck's use of language, but they were able to articulate that the language sounded like kids who had just discovered cursing and what that immature quality helped reveal about the men's characters. They were able to use a poem full of violent imagery about a young man who accidentally killed his younger brother on a hunting trip to discuss the complexities of our own hunting culture and practice their close reading skills.

But shouldn't I be able to get my students to hone these skills without sinking so low? How do we balance helping students find intrinsic motivation with respect for the waning years of their childhood? Will my hack teaching make students think that classes that don't dwell on the more lowbrow aspects of the material are boring? Perhaps this blog post should be longer, but I don't have any answers to these questions. I'd appreciate your insights!

No comments: