Courtney Langton

Courtney is an aspiring high school teacher. Her teachables are History and English, but she's happy to teach anything that doesn't involve numbers or formulas. Her particular interest is in promoting gender equity and anti-oppression both in and outside the classroom. She writes a detailed To-Do list every morning, and enjoys nothing more than a good book and a plate of bacon on a rainy Saturday.

Jonathan Wong

Jonathan's primary interest is moral education. His teachable subjects are English and Music. He encourages critical thinking and hopes to teach his students to recognize, and strive for, what is truly important to them without forgetting to be compassionate, tolerant, and open-minded along the way. He likes making analogies and his favourite is one that compares life to jumping on a trampoline.

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RE: Why we study English
Monday, June 29, 2009

I recently came across some old journals my mom kept from when I was a baby until I was about 4. She originally used them when I had a nanny and my parents weren't around to see everything I did all day, but she kept at it even when she started to stay home with us. At one point, in 1990 (I was 3), she spends numerous entries chronicling the challenge to get me to vent my frustration "in words, not screams."

Eventually, she records, I could be heard from afar yelling, "I am very angry!!" This was a victory of sorts for my parents-- I had learned to express myself.

Things get a little more complex for kids once they reach the Intermediate/Senior level. You kindergarten teachers out there will no doubt have the rare privilege of gently encouraging your students to use their words and occasionally moving sharp-edged furniture aside as a child gives in to an ear-shattering, limb-flailing tantrum.

Those of us in the older grades, however, have a different kind of challenge. We get to wheedle and cajole teens and tweens into writing their thoughts on paper, collecting their opinions for a speech, and heaven forbid, remembering it all for an exam. Teenagers whine-- it's what they do. There's always going to be at least one kid who says, "But Miiiiiiiiiiiiss, WHY do we have to doooooo this? Why can't we watch a movie/play a board game/go outside insteaaaaaaaad?" (the key to whining is the elongated vowel. High school students have perfected this.)

Luckily for us all, English teachers have been trained in the art of persuasion. We learn how to argue in a dissertation, and how to paint a picture with poetry-- great English teachers are able to translate this to convince our students to go along with our wacky reasoning for reading Shakespeare.

When it comes to teaching English, a subject that is (as Jon mentioned) mandatory in every year of school in Ontario, I tend to fall more along the flexible side of things. I want my students to learn to appreciate great works of literature, and I'll tailor the way I teach in order to ensure that this is achieved. I'm not going to give them fluffy or meritless subject matter in hopes that they'll understand better-- it's my teaching methods that will be modified, not the topic of study.

There's nothing wrong with creating a Facebook profile for Mercutio and Tibalt (been there, done that, the kids went nuts for it), or chronicling Atticus Finch's Tweets. If you have to create a virtual Big Brother in your classroom for the kids to truly grasp 1984, go for it.

The problem many kids have with studying English is that it's stale, it's old, they can't relate to it. Your job is to make it come alive. And once you've cultivate a passion (or at least a passing interest) for English in your students, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how they can begin to express themselves.

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Courtney posted at 10:47 PM - Comments (0)


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