I have been teaching for twenty-two years which is awesome. I still feel like I’m faking being a good teacher even though I can see exactly how much I’ve grown from my early years. My rookie mistakes still make me cringe in embarrassment and hope that my former students actually learned something about thinking for themselves and communicating effectively. Those are still my goals for my students. I spent the last five or six years teaching mostly sophomores and seniors which has been blissful and painful and fun in turns. I got to indulge in my love of fairy tales with the sophomores and my love of science fiction utopia/dystopias with my seniors. Of course, I managed to slip in two of my favorite books: for sophomores The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon–and thank you Marla Charlton for introduction; for seniors I snatched The Scarlet Letter from the junior curriculum. I have not taught juniors in all that time unless they took an English elective.
I am teaching juniors again which means revisiting some of my favorite and least favorite literature. We start with The Crucible by Arthur Miller; the two women who taught American literature to juniors over the last six years did a remarkable job with having the students research The Red Scare and key figures from The Crucible before reading the play. They both clearly loved the work and that passion came through in their activities and discussions of the play.
I’ve gone about thing a little backwards. I decided to read the play first, then we will do a very short research on The Red Scare (four paragraphs with at least three sources in the bibliography) and a short profile on a randomly selected character as they existed in life rather than in literature. I don’t know if this is the best way to go about things; I don’t know if I should have followed the methods of the other teachers, but I’m going to find out. I think it will be interesting to have my students look into why women, young women, would fall under someone’s influence so deeply that they came to believe they had been attacked by people’s spirits or by agents of Satan. I think it will be interesting to tie those experiences together with how women–white and non-white–have been treated in American culture since it’s colonization.
I worry a little bit about whether or not I can do my ideas justice. I worry a little bit about what my students may find to be relevant and what they may wish to communicated, but I know the ups and downs of the journey will prove to be worthwhile. I also find myself reading The Crucible through different eyes this time around.