Feature & Follow Friday #6

This week’s “Feature & Follow” Friday question, brought to you by our hosts Parajunkee & Alison Can Read in an effort to create a conversation between bloggers and help them to gain more followers, is: 

Q: Back to school. Create a reading list for the imaginary English Lit class you’ll be teaching this semester.

A: There was a time in my life when I had aspirations of becoming a high-school teacher. I had visions of returning to my alma-mater, shaking things up, teaching classes I took better than they were taught to me. These dreams, surprisingly, had nothing to do with my English Literature classes. And that’s because I wasn’t dissatisfied with my education in that regard. The books on our syllabi, year after year, were progressive and unconventional, focusing on the beauty of nature and the horrors of conformity; we questioned gender stereotypes and took in a healthy dose of dystopian Literature (way before it became all the rage). Just the type of thing Pookas like. Sure, I may have missed out on a few of the Classics, and sure I may not know the difference between spondees and dactyls (They’re dinosaurs, right?). But I was really able to hone my critical thinking and writing skills, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Instead, I imagined revamping my religious education. It should have been no surprise that my theology classes were more rigid and structured, as I went to a school called “Holy Name Central Catholic.” I had no problem memorizing Bible passages (He maketh me lie down in green pastures/ thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me) – even if they weren’t especially enthralling; I just wanted more than Bible passages. The laziness was inexcusable. Students were lazy when it came to asking questions, and teachers were lazy in providing answers on the rare occasions when challenging questions surfaced. The joke was that if you were taking a test and you didn’t know the answer, you could simply put “I love Jesus” and receive a passing grade. The instructors weren’t teachers, they were believers. The important thing wasn’t intelligence or capability, but rather a buoyant, transferable faith. I played the game and I got good grades, but it was awful.

I came to see it as even more awful when I went on to major in English Literature and Religious Studies in college. I saw what a religious education could be. I learned about competing philosophies, world religions, and a woman named Julian of Norwich. She said (in many more words) that to know God was to know your own soul, and vice-versa! According to her, to not question, and not doubt, and not explore, and not investigate, was to leave yourself unknown. I’ve come to realize that what you think about God (big “G”, little “g”, pluralized, no “g” [capital or otherwise]), says a lot about you! It’s better than any personality test in any teen magazine. God is supposedly the Ideal – which qualities do you attribute to the divine? Are they qualities that you possess or aspects that you lack? What do you consider to be important or perfect? Or, do you reject the whole notion of perfection? When you think of god, do you think of a Judge? A Lover? A Person? A Spirit? Someone white? Someone blue? Someone with many arms? Many eyes? A Creator? A Destroyer? Nothing? The All? Cthulhu?A beautiful, magical fairy-rabbit? Are you sure that you’re right? Do you allow for the possibility (no matter how small) that you may be wrong?


I’ll take one of each, please!

It’s fascinating! To shrug and not know what you think, and not care… is kind of inconceivable to me. It means that you don’t think. And that you might be boring. Questions about religion are questions about creation, existence, reality, and death. You have to consider them – especially in your formative years – and you have to keep thinking about them, even if you find that you don’t believe! I don’t care what you think, just that you think – and I wanted to pass that on to high-schoolers.

I don’t know which books I’d use, as I haven’t seriously considered teaching in a long while. I’m pretty certain these two would show up, though:


The Bhagavad Gita.
An ancient Hindu text, which includes one of my favorite quotes of all time:
“Roots in the air, branches below, the Tree of Life is unchanging.
They say its leaves are hymns, and he who knows it, knows sacred lore.”


A tome filled with kick-ass, interesting women throughout history, many of whom totally ignored the patriarchy.

Sometimes I still imagine going back and pursuing that track, but I know how frustrating it would be to try to do something all-inclusive like that where it’s most needed (in religious, not public schools). And I’m happy in my chosen profession, passing on the love of stories, reading, and creativity to kids at the local library. And I’m good at it. My cow impression is spot-on. (I bet you’ve never seen a rabbit moo before).

I don’t presume to know how to how to teach high school – regardless of what class it is. I don’t know how to create an English Literature 101 Reading List. But I do know how to create a Story Time program for pre-schooolers. So, now that you’ve read my unexpected rant about the state of religious education in parochial schools, I’ll present you with the reading list (and craft) for my first scheduled Story Time of the Fall.

We’ll be reading about whales – because whales are the biggest living mammal, and the first Story Time of the season is a big deal!


Can you believe this Dick? Just making himself at home in my living room.

Our reading list includes I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry, I Spy With My Little Eye by Edward Gibbs, A Big Guy Took My Ball by Mo Willems, If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano, and Down by the Bay by Raffi.


For the craft, we’ll make whales out of blue plastic cellophane baggies (found at any party store).

In addition to the baggies, other necessary materials include:

  • a glue stick
  • crayons (especially various blues)
  • sequins
  • pipe cleaners (preferably blue, white, or green)
  • googly eyes (I used some leftover, enormous Cookie Monster-like eyes made of paper)
  • pre-cut construction paper fishies
  • twist ties or yarn
  • plain white paper

First, the kids will decorate the fishies: color them, stick sequins on them to look like scales, do whatever they please. Then, they color two plain white pieces of paper to look like seawater – utilize the blue & green crayons, draw some waves. When they’ve finished, open the blue cellophane baggie. Stick the fishies down the bottom near the seam, facing outward. The seam will become the whale’s mouth and the fishies will be eaten! Next, crumple up the pieces of paper loosely, and stick both down toward the fishies in the whale’s “head” (they definitely swallow a lot of water!) to create dimension. Tie the whale off in the middle with a twist tie or piece of yarn. Glue on the eyes. Curl the pipe cleaners around a pencil or your finger to make them curly. Then, gently poke them into the top of the whale’s “head.” This is the spout/water coming out of the blowhole. You may need to fiddle with them a bit to get them to stick up right. And ta-da! You have yourself a a ridiculous-looking behemoth!


I left the fishies out so you could see them better.

The following week, we’ll be reading about bumble bees and bats, in honor of the world’s smallest mammal: the bumblebee bat!


How cute is this guy?!

And don’t forget to visit my blog again this weekend. I’ll be posting a new book review by Sunday’s end. Happy hopping!


About pookapicks

I'm a 20-something gal working in Children's Library Services. My likes include googly eyes, coffee, magical realism, leading Story Hours, and forcing my taste in books down people's throats. I have a pet rabbit named Moxie Crimefighter.
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10 Responses to Feature & Follow Friday #6

  1. Amber H. says:

    I love the fishies! great idea! I also need that bat! Where do I get one!!!

    Old follower!

    Here’s my FF + Giveaway!

    Amber @Paradise of Pages

  2. eightbitbrit says:

    Your answers to these are always so amazing and adorable. I miss teaching PreK, it’s just too freaking cute. Preschoolers are always so punk rock. Great post! I can’t even imagine going to Catholic School, not that North High really provided challenging discourse either. 😛

    • pookapicks says:

      A friend of mine who teaches pre-school told me that she recently took to saying “Oi!” in class, and that the kids caught on & started saying it, too! I thought she was proclaiming it like a punk-rocker, and became really enthusiastic. But she quickly corrected me, informing me that she was really saying it like an old Jewish woman. Womp, womp.

  3. You are so funny! I just wanna squish that little pooka! And I wanna hear you moo!
    I struggle with English lit — I know I should read more but hey, there’s just so much good stuff out there, not necessarily written by the English. Now you’re wanting to revamp religion classes — whoa, impressive. (I grew up RC so a lot of this is pounded into me!)

    • pookapicks says:

      I did too, actually! Except my mom was divorced and didn’t exactly feel welcome, so we didn’t go to Church much. But she did send me to Holy Name (which is where she went), and I made my Confirmation (my middle name is Clare, after Saint Clare of Assissi). Sometimes, in high school, I’d even wake up early with one of my friends and go listen to the monks do their morning lauds at an abbey a couple of towns over (at like 4am). There are things I like about Catholicism, and things I don’t. There are beautiful and ugly things in every religion, I think.

  4. I swear I have Down by the Bay memorized (not that is’t hard to do or anything LOL). But my little ones have each been obsessed with it at one point. I’m a huge library fan, as are the kiddos. We spent a lot of time at ours this summer learning about dinosaurs, doing nature crafts, and traveling around the world. In the Florida heat, I honestly don’t know what I’d do without the comfy A/C and wonderful activities at our library 🙂

  5. Amy says:

    Your answers to these #FF questions are always so creative & interesting, I love it! I used to want to be a teach at one point too, and to do it differently to how I was taught. Our teachers were usually so boring, especially some of the English teachers. I actually lost my love of reading for a few years, and it wasn’t really until I left high school that a found it again. I hate to think that, that is still happening now. Hopefully some teachers will be reading all our answers this week and make some changes…I wish 🙂

    • pookapicks says:

      Thank you!
      Most of my teachers were actually very good. Especially those who taught English and History, which I’m sure impacted the things I became interested in & pursued later in life. I think it was just an organizational/administrative/dogma problem, in my case.
      But I’m hopeful, too. A good chunk of my college friends entered the teaching profession post-graduation, and I know they’re rockin’ it out. In almost every subject, too. English, History, Spanish, Science, Music, (not to mention Elementary Ed). One of them even became a high school math teacher! I used to joke with her while we were in school that once we graduated, we could no longer be friends (because I didn’t like math teachers). But each friend has got so much energy, and creativity, and enthusiasm, and intelligence. They’ll be/are inspiring, I know. However, none of them became Religion teachers…

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