Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I May Not Know Literature, But I Know What I Like...

Parent-teacher interviews went well. I wasn't verbally abused this time as I was last year when a parent decided his child was not doing so well because of a 'personality conflict'. How about blaming the child's failure to do any work and a tendency to disrupt others? How about realising that the 'personality clash' was only mentioned after letters went home stating the child was of concern and in danger of failing? How about this parent thinking that he (a professional) would not accept this kind of behaviour and attitude from any of his employees?

But this year went well, and I was even thanked by a number of parents for the work I was doing.

There was one comment made several times that made me think (and ultimately laugh) that night.

"My son only likes reading if it's something he's interested in."

I got to thinking about this one. Parents think I expect kids to like reading books they hate, and there is a presumption that the textbooks will be boring and not engaging. (current educational buzzword here along with 'Pedagogical')

Do I enjoy books I hate? My last entry tells of a particular book I have to teach that should never have been published. But there are other books I teach that I think are either poorly written, dull or just plain pointless. As a teacher, I end up reading these several times prior to teaching them.

Guess what parents, I only enjoy reading books about things I like too.

And would someone tell the VCAA that sometimes we should read books just because they are beautiful and enjoyable to read?

Please, stop selecting texts for Year 12 just because they deal with issues. I'm tired of reading depressing books about suicide, cancer, rape, abuse, single parents or living through war. I see enough of it in the newspapers and on television. This is what happens when the texts are selected by a committee.

Try to include a couple of texts that tell of the joy of living. Try to choose some books that will encourage our students to read more. Select books that we read for the joy of just reading.

As well as being a very average translation, Sky Burial is slow, ponderous, and dull. (Xinran, please admit to us that this book is fiction - don't keep pretending it's a true story.) Look Both Ways has a list of characters who are all victims, where nothing really exciting actually happens. Citizen Kane is long, dull and many years out of date. A Streetcar Named Desire is similarly out of date, neither culturally nor geographically relevant and basically dull. I personally love 1984, but I'm not convinced that the kids are going to like it or get into it at all. As for the poetry - how about something interesting? William Blake, Martin Newell or Benjamin Zephaniah? (or the poetry of Bob Dylan or similar? OK, Paul Kelly came close.)

There are so many wonderful books and films out there that are interesting, relevant and fun to study.

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