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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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ARCHIVES: June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 March 2010

Cultural Studies, Part 2 (Books for Students)
Friday, July 31, 2009

"So welcome to YouTube
You don't know what you're missing,
Just try searching women kissing,
It's YouTube
It's what this country's been needing,
A generation of kids who don't waste their time reading..."
-- Bo Burnham at YouTube Live

As teachers going into final year, I'm sure there will be LOTS of books we're required to read, all in the spirit of professional development. Courtney's talked a bit about these books in her post. But I thought I'd share some books that certainly, most of you probably won't be required to read. Not so much books that are meaningful to us as teachers (directly) but books that many of our students may find meaningful. And since our focus will always be on the student, these books might be indirectly significant to us as well. And if your students haven't read these books, these are some you can recommend. Curiously, I always consider it to be a sign that English, at least, is progressing, when some of these books actually find their way into the curriculum at some schools. That's not to say that 1984, A Brave New World, Shakespeare, The Chrysalids, Death of a Salesman, and The Lord of the Flies aren't solid academic books in themselves but you know... always good to read new books.

Books for Students

1. The Catcher in the Rye. One of the aforementioned "books that have made it into the curriculum," I was a little surprised to find it on the required reading list for an ENG3U class I was teaching. But that might just be me since I never considered this book to be particularly good. Certainly, though, it deals with some of the things many teenagers go through at some point or another in their life. It's a rather emo book in that sense. Bitter, emo, and the feeling that the world around him is fake and phony, it might not be my favorite book but I understand why a lot of teenagers will find themselves drawn to it.

2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Another book that has made it into some curricula, this book is good for teachers to read simply because it's a real and meaningful look into the autistic world. It might be a stretch to assume your students will ever get around to reading this (unless it's part of the English curriculum at your school) but it's worth a read nonetheless.

3. Go Ask Alice. This is a tough read. But don't think for a minute that that means your students will never read it. This seems to actually be a rather popular book among the teenage circles (or it was a few years ago). Alice provides a real-life look into what it's like to be rejected by society and descend into a world of drugs and degeneracy. Particularly powerful because it's a true story.

4. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4. Sadly no longer as popular as it once was, this is still a book I would recommend to every adolescent. It's funny, it's neurotic, and it does a very good job at making you empathize with Adrian Mole without making you feel sorry for him. And it's a not altogether inaccurate portrayal of what a lot of boys go through when they're 13 3/4.

5. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. I remember reading this and finding it much better than its adult counterpart (something about 7 habits of highly effective people). I haven't read it in years but from what I remember, it manages to be a pseudo-self-help book that's actually interesting to read. It also provides a pretty good insight into the teenage mind (shudder), from a teaching point of view.

6. Tuesdays with Morrie. This book is to teachers what A Walk To Remember is to hopeless romantics. Lessons we learn from great teachers that extend beyond the classroom/academia.

7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Someday, I hope that this book becomes a part of the English curriculum. From a personal standpoint, this is like the perfect book. But I think a lot of teenagers will enjoy this coming-of-age tale. This is definitely something you can recommend to your students if they haven't already read it and I think it's safe to assume that a good portion of students who are even remotely interested in reading will pick this up at some point in their young lives.


I'm sure there are many more books that I, as a young, angst-ridden teenager missed. I think Jack Kerouac wrote one that was fairly popular. But as teachers, it's always good (especially as we get older) to read some of the books that are definitive of the generation we're teaching. It helps us remember, I think, what it was like to be young and why sometimes it's a miracle that kids even show up to class, much less pay attention.

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