Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Week of 12-1-08 Through 12-12-08



Here we are, back from the Thanksgiving break, all rested and fresh. Yeah, right. The weather has turned cold—today—could be hot later this week. The Christmas tree is up in the quad area. The PTO has started a drive to help needy families whose children are in the hospital over the holidays. And we are in the final push leading to Christmas vacation.

When we return from the break in January, we will only have a few weeks until final exams for the close of the first semester. So students should be reviewing and studying over the holidays. The work never ends. I will be grading papers and finishing planning for the remainder of semester one. Still, it will be nice to spend time with family and be at home.

So, in the next two weeks, I will finish Siddhartha with my tenth grade honors class. Instead of a test, they will be working on a paper comparing Jesus as he is portrayed in specific biblical passages to corresponding passages in the novel depicting Siddhartha. By the end of the first week, we will be returning to Oscar Williams’ anthology for more study of poetry, beginning with Ben Jonson and my particular favorite, John Donne. I accidentally stood on Donne’s grave in the floor of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London a few years back. I hope he forgives me, and knows that I am in awe of his work. “All of mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…” Love John Donne. So many great quotes.

Freshmen honors English will return to the anthology as well after weeks of speeches and other work. We will be reading some Whitman, more Ray Bradbury, and dear Robert Frost. Together and separately, we will again contemplate the roads we travel, the places we go, or should go, in our lives.

Seniors will dive into William Blake. Religious zealot, fanatic, artist, writer, guardian of innocence and experience, we will look at all sides of this great figure in British literature. Here, too, we will use the Mentor edition of Oscar Williams’ anthology of British poetry.

AP Language and Composition will focus on cultural criticism over the next two weeks. Some of the writers they will be reading include Anthony Burgess of A Clockwork Orange fame, Adam Goodheart, and Jessica Mitford, a writer most famous for exposing the foibles and intricacies of the funeral industry.

When we meet again in the afternoon, we will continue our study of SAT vocabulary words as well as critical reading and other test skills. I have also incorporated some current news articles about college admissions, the validity of SAT and ACT testing, and current thinking on what makes for a good college student into the mix. We analyze the essays, most from The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, and try to determine an action plan for dealing with the testing and admissions processes that are only just beginning for these eleventh graders.

Off we go.