Saturday, November 28, 2015

Themes vs Morals, Opinion vs Fact

    As my friend Erica so aptly put it, “English is either the worst class or the best class.”

    When I was in sixth grade, English was the best class (well, except for my electives, but that’s to be expected). My sixth-grade English teacher was one of the best teachers I ever had, and she actually gave us cool assignments. She was strict, but not in a dictator-like fashion, and she had a sense of humor.

    Since then, English has been “the worst class”. Well, except for algebra - last year algebra was far worse than English - but English was kind of boring. It just wasn’t the worst. Then our teacher retired during the third quarter and we got an extremely unpopular sub. I felt kind of sorry for her - she didn’t deserve the bad reputation she got. In fact, I rather enjoyed the class where everyone kept tripping over the word “bosom” while we were reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream and she made all the boys in the class say “bosom” with her five times.

    This year, though, it fits the description perfectly. English is the worst class. My friend Joshua actually fell asleep during class. Teachers make jokes about kids falling asleep in class, but that almost never happens. It actually did. (For everyone but Joshua and the teacher, it was rather comical, which is good, because we were exceedingly bored up until that point. I fantasized about doing the same, but Joshua sat in the back and I was right up front, so I would have had a harder time concealing it.) The fact that it did happen means more than you might think.

    My teacher also insists that every story has a theme. (By “theme”, she means “moral”, as in lesson, like Aesop’s Fables.) Erica and I agreed that’s not very accurate - can you name a moral for A Wrinkle in Time? The Diary of Anne Frank? The Call of the Wild?

    We also have to do this thing called “Cornell Notes” for the literature circle books we’ve read. We never did that before. In sixth grade, we had to write down significant quotes from the book and interpret them. I thought this was kind of a pain, but not every assignment is fun, and it at least made sense. When I was in seventh grade, we were quizzed on the assigned sections of the books, which seemed perfectly logical. Cornell Notes are sheets of paper where you divide the paper into three columns. One has “key terms”, the next has detailed notes on the term (which apparently need to include quotes or they don’t count), and the third has the page number where you found the event.

    For my first-quarter book, I listed the names of characters and settings, then identified them in the second column. These notes got a hundred percent.

    When I turned in the first page of Cornell Notes for my second-quarter book, they got a zero.

    I used the exact same method I had for the last one, which got me full credit. Apparently, for key terms, you couldn’t just write the names of characters and then elaborate on them; you had to write “Characters”, then list significant characters in the next column. And you needed to include quotes, apparently. I imagine this was said in class and I missed it, but it seemed perfectly logical to me that what earned full credit the previous quarter would do the same this quarter. Apparently not.

    We are now writing persuasive essays. Troublemaker that I am, I am writing against the use of merits at my school to determine the players in the student/staff basketball game (a time-honored school tradition in which students go to the gym during their P.E. or health period, and then choose to sit on the bleachers or join the students’ basketball team for that period, which this year students have to pay merits - pieces of paper they are given when they do something “good” - to play). I was thoroughly offended that they had hijacked one of the few times in which students and teachers are (were) treated as equals.

    For some reason, none of the websites we’re allowed to research on have a great deal of information on the use of rewards and punishments in school, so I asked if I could use other sources.

    “What other sources did you have in mind?”

    “Well, I know some other websites that have information on this stuff…there’s this blog called The Answer Sheet…”

    “No blogs,” she replied sharply. “Those are all opinion.”

    “They defend their claims,” I assured her - teachers love those academic-sounding phrases.

    “Doesn’t matter,” she answered dismissively.

    She later said that blogs are “all opinion, no fact, just people sitting at computers.”

    This saga will be continued when I receive critique for my persuasive essay.

    The moral of this story is: English is either the best class or the worst class.   

1 comment:

  1. Ugh! It sounds like this teacher is going out of her way to make it "the worst."
    Good luck!