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