Monday, September 21, 2009

First workshop tonight, acks! Oh... and teaching

Sorry. I have no picture, as I'm at work. I may or may not remember to add one when I get home.

I'm sitting in my office hours being unproductive. I can't stand office hours. One girl showed up to give me homework, as she slept through my 9 oclock class. Other than that, it's silent. Pretty much standard, though students have visited me here much more frequently than at NAU. I wish I could work by appointment only. That's my dream teaching experience...appointment only office hours!

Tonight's my first poetry workshop. Last week was first workshop workshop, but I've been ill, so I missed it, and I'm not sure how my instructor (Laura Newbern) runs it. It's in 6 hours, and I'm already getting nauseous. I probably won't be able to eat until I get home from class around 8:30 or so. I always get so irrationally anxious about these things. I'm sure after this workshop I'll become an expert, but the first time's always tough. Expect workshop commentary tomorrow!

Today's teaching got way off track in my 9 oclock class. We were supposed to be talking about this article on eating disorders/food habits. Instead we talked about Harry Potter for about ten minutes. I've never read Harry Potter or seen the movies. I don't have anything against the books. I just have no interest, and I never got sucked into the hype. I think it's sort of nerdy. My students were appalled by this. Apparently JK Rowling is the greatest current novelist. Apparently Harry Potter was the series that made them all love to read. This was the series that changed their generation.

While I appreciate their unity and their ability to relate and talk about a book like this, this discussion actually discouraged me. I know for a fact that they don't all LOVE to read. I know that (for the most part) they go home and play video games and get on facebook and watch TV. If they loved to read, they'd be better writers. If they loved to read, they'd love to write. If they loved to read, they would talk enthusiastically in class instead of staring at me. If they all loved to read, then why do book sales always seem to drop (except for those self help diet books). If they loved to read, they would be literature majors instead of nursing, biology, chemistry, business majors. I just don't buy it. I wish I could.


  1. I think the difference between "us" (English majors & writers) and "them" (non-writers/English majors) is that they love to read easy, reader friendly texts like "Harry Potter" and Steven King, etc. and we love to read challenging, engaging, difficult texts.

  2. Good luck with your first workshop!

  3. It is an interesting generational thing the whole Harry Potter phoenomena. I read the first book to see what the commotion was all about and I found the series very entertaining and actually not just a pulp series that is written poorly. It could make some interesting discussion on how Rowling uses classical mythology etc in her work. I'm more interested to se what she does next :)

    Good luck with your workshop!

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  5. It's hard for us literary types to swallow some of the pop literature phenomenoms; however, I make a practice of not discouraging reading of any kind. You can use Harry Potter as a bridge to talk about other, more challenging literature. That said, your students may have been chatting up Harry Potter because they didn't want to stay on task / on the lesson. If you sense that's the case - rein 'em in! You're the boss and you can do that, i.e. "while Harry's travails are fascinating, what do you think about such and such (on-topic)?"
    Try not to get discouraged, though. They're not always going to be into what you're saying and it often takes a couple weeks to establish ease in discussion. Sometimes, you'll never get there if the students aren't willing. Other times, they'll surprise you.

  6. I agree with Monica about not discouraging any kind of reading. Any reading is going to help students become better readers of other texts and better writers. There was a very interesting article in the New York Times recently about the related topic of letting students choose what books to read in school:

  7. I'm a fan of tangents in Monday classes. I'd rather students be talking about anything than not talking at all. This is sort of a relaxed approach, but they're more focused during the rest of the week. 9AM on Mondays is tough, even for me!

    I didn't discourage them about Harry Potter in anyway, though I did tell them that I've never read them, don't plan to, and don't consider the books to be some of the "best" books of all time.

    I absolutely agree that any reading will help them be better writers. My point is more that I WISH they read. REALLY read. Like they go home once a week and read a chapter of ANYTHING for leisure. Finishing the Harry Potter series just doesn't count as making them "readers". Reading can take a variety of forms, from newspaper to magazines to books. Tragically (to me), they don't read much in any context except for what they see on the computer and their text messages.


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