Pamela…(insert angry face)

I first encountered Pamela last fall when I took a British Literature Survey course. I didn’t read the selected reading of Pamela and now that I have to for my novels class I am just angry. I am only 54 pages in (and I should be much farther by this point…) but I am so mad because I know how this book ends already and I can’t believe it ends that way.

This particular novel is told in epistolary style, in which a fifteen year old girl is writing letters home to her parents about her life working as a servant for her mistress. Well her mistress dies and her son, who is now Pamela’s master, decides he will keep Pamela on as a servant. That would be ok if he wasn’t secretly keeping her on because he wanted to seduce her. This is the whole premise of the novel. Mr. B- (as he is called) just wants to sleep with Pamela but Pamela wants to protect her virtue so all her letters home to her parents are about Mr. B- attempting to either rape or grope her and all her parents send back is “protect your virtue Pamela”, absolutely no concern about the fact this man is sexually assaulting her as long as her “virtue” in tact. It makes me so angry because she is young, vulnerable, and everyone knows what is happening and yet no one does anything about it because they really can’t. There is another lady/maybe servant in the house, Mrs. Jervis, who is essentially Pamela’s protector but when Pamela writes a letter home to her parents complaining about Mr. B-‘s behavior, he finds the letter and tells Pamela that he can’t have her ruining his reputation. His reputation? What about the fact he almost raped her and she barely got away then curled up in a ball and cried because she was traumatized about what happened?

What really makes me angry is the fact at the end of the book Pamela marries Mr. B-. She essentially marries the man who has been sexually assaulting her this whole time. It’s like someone knowingly marrying their rapist. It’s disgusting and yet for some Samuel Richardson (the author) thinks that this ok because her reward for protecting her virtue is marriage. Except she’s marry the very man who tried to steal her virtue. If she was marrying someone else, anyone else in my opinion, I wouldn’t have minded because at least she was getting away from Mr. B-. Instead she marries him and who knows what he is like now that he has legal access to Pamela.

I just feel so bad for Pamela because being married to the man who tried to sexually assault you for five hundred pages is not a reward.

-A

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Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

I should just start another category for Graphic Novels because here is another one! I heard about this book a year ago and kept putting off reading it until I found the copy my mom had lent in my room in a box full of books. I could not put it down and honestly who wouldn’t rather read a graphic novel than A Room of One’s Own?

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Astrid and Nicole have been friends forever but when Astrid signs up for Roller Derby Camp and Nicole signs up for dance camp with Astrid’s arch nemesis Astrid must learn to find her own way in the world without her best friend.  I connected a lot with Astrid because I always used to hide in the shadow of my friends and assume they would be with me all throughout life. That isn’t the case as Astrid learns as she skates into roller derby camp all by herself.

Just like everyone else Astrid wants to be the best at Roller Derby as soon as she arrives. When she finds herself skating around the edge of the rink holding onto the side, she almost gives up but when she discovers Rainbow Bite’s locker (her roller derby role model) she decides to stick around a little longer. It isn’t until Astrid takes a tumble into a bush that she is determined to stick it out and practice as hard as she can to become jammer.

This is a delightful graphic novel about growing up and finding yourself outside of your friends. It has a delightful ending and you’ll find yourself smiling the whole time you read this graphic novel.

-A

Ownership over education

When students have autonomy over their education they will be motivated to work.

One of my biggest frustrations with my job is when my managers try to tell me how to do my job. I know how to do my job and yet I am constantly under scrutiny because for some reason I am not trusted. This is how we treat students. We are constantly assessing, correcting and breathing over their shoulder (sometimes quite literally) because we don’t trust that they are actually learning. Why is that? It could be a combination of things: lack of interest in what they are learning, they have more pressing matters on their mind than school, or they simply don’t think education/learning is important. They’ve never been given autonomy over their learning. They have never been asked to learn on their own and instead teachers spoon feed them what they want them to know. We then test them telling them they are either smart or dumb because we can’t reach every student, right? Wrong. It is possible to reach every student and if we can’t we aren’t doing our job as educators. Every student that walks in the door has a right to an education and it is our job to give it to them.

If students don’t think what they are learning is important they aren’t going to care. They may try for the “A” because in their eyes that is important but they aren’t going to actually try to learn. I was never very good at math and as the years went on I just kept getting left behind because we had to make it through the textbook by the end of the year and I was the “acceptable loss”.  At first I really did try to understand but by the time I got to Algebra II I just tried to learn enough to get a B and move on. I didn’t care about learning anymore just as long as I could the B.

I learned a lot about intrinsic motivation in a communications course I took and the research is there but no one will listen to it. It comes down to trust because we, as a society don’t think we can live in a utopian society. We don’t think people or students are intrinsically motivated. Clearly they have to be motivated by something else to learn but then are they really learning anymore? Students are doing what the teacher wants to see but that isn’t learning. They are regurgitating what they have been told and moving on. They are not engaging in their own learning. Some kids are great at faking it and I was one of those kids. There were very few courses in high school I was actually interested in. I worked hard in those but in the other courses I just did what I knew would get me the “A”.

One of my old high school teachers runs a flipped classroom. His students teach the lesson everyday because that involves them in their own learning. He doesn’t stand up in front of the class and lecture. He has them involved in their own learning. This is what we need to be doing as teachers. We need to involve students in their own learning. It starts with trust and time. In the world today of instant results which are only a click away we expect that from students. We are so focused on the now and not the end of the year. Parents, administration and the school board want to see instant results because learning should be instant shouldn’t it? Real learning takes time. It takes time and dedication and not teachers who are struggling to get to the end of the book by the end of the year because that is what is required of them.

For real learning to take place students need time and they need autonomy.

-A

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

I have never read many graphic novels in my life. My friend Regan Garey (check out her blog at fortheloveofbooks767), is taking a graphic novels course this semester (how awesome is that!) and I’ve been religiously following her It’s Monday What Are You Reading to read about her latest graphic novel read.

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This last week she brought Relish to our Methods class and told all of us we needed to read it. I instantly latched onto it and read it in two days! Everyone needs to read this book because not only is the artwork just beautiful the whole book is about food. Food is honestly my second favorite thing in this world and being able to read about someone’s life through their food experiences was the most fun I have had in a long time. It encourages bad habits however because after I read about Knisley’s experience in France eating McDonald’s all I wanted was a greasy BigMac and some fries dipped in ranch.

I didn’t grow up with a chef for a mom and a dad who likes fine dining but I was a picky eater. I only like certain types of food and am only adventurous in cooking/eating  when I feel like it. I’m willing to try new things once and if I like them I will eat them again but unlike Knisley I am not a huge fan of seafood.

It is such a fun book because it makes you think of food experiences you had. I remember eating outdated tv dinners with my cousin because that’s all my grandma had in the freezer. I remember eating a whole tomato one time when I was a kid and the only time I eat tomato’s now is if they are cut up in a salad or are cherry tomatoes covered in ranch.

Knisley traveled a lot as a kid and she writes about these experiences by describing the food she ate. I went to San Antonio my senior year of high school for National FCCLA and all I can remember about that trip is eating the best Mexican food I have ever had.

Relish is a memoir but it’s so much more. It’s looking back on life through a specific lens and Knisley’s is food. She associates memories with food and that’s the kind of life I attain for.

 

 

Moll Flanders: Initial reactions

The first thing that made me pause and write notes in the margins is the whole concept of Moll Flanders. It’s supposed to be this redemption story of sorts. Moll does all these bad things but in the end she turns her life around and God rewards her for it. Theoretically that is how it is supposed to work but not in practice. God never said if you suddenly start to live a good life I will bless you. Just because you live a godly life doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen to you and that life might just suck all the time. You aren’t going to wake up one day say sorry and suddenly life is perfect for you.

I’m not sure how I feel about the first person narrative. Obviously it is being set up as some kind of true account, that Moll Flanders really did exist and this is her account of her life. I think it lends itself to the idea that novels are more “true” and are about real people who lived during that time. However, I am not used to this style and it frustrates when fiction pretends to be nonfiction.

Sleeping with the your brother-in-law in my eyes is not necessarily incest because while you are related through marriage you aren’t related by blood. Incest to me is two people sharing a very similar genetic code sleeping together and then producing deformed children. I read a really great book over Christmas break last year called  The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman.  In it the main character falls in love with her husbands nephew and in the eyes of the Jewish faith they were committing incest even though they were not blood related they were still considered family. However, in the bible it does say something to the effect that if your brother dies you should marry his widow and they don’t consider that incest so I find the definition of incest in this novel interesting.

I would define this as a novel not because of it’s length but because of quickly we come to understand the character of Moll Flanders and come to feel for her. She’s reflecting back on life and I am speaking specifically of her encounter with the two brothers-her first lover and her first husband. Looking back she sees how dumb she was to believe that the eldest brother was interested in marriage and that by paying her he was turning her into a prostitute. She clearly didn’t care for the younger brother but she realized her situation and the only way out of it was to marry the younger brother. Comparing this encounter with DE and Amena in Love in Excess I can’t help but think despite Moll being naive she is smarter when it comes to the ways of love. Perhaps because this was written for a different audience or written with a different purpose. Haywood was writing to entertain whereas I think Defoe was going for a redemption story so if Moll wasn’t feeling somewhat guilty for her crimes then she wouldn’t need redemption. Haywood’s novel looks at love in a very different way than Defoe’s does.

-A

 

Why English?

When I tell people I am an English Education major they usually lift their eyebrows, give me a ghost of a smile and tell me good luck. It’s either that or they tell me they hated English in high school. I used to think I was going into education because I liked English. I then thought I was going into education because I liked to teach. While I think those are two very important mindsets to have if you want to be a teacher I know now I am going into education to change how we educate kids. I honestly never thought I would be interested in administration because my heart is in the classroom but the thought of going for my masters is no longer something I don’t want to do but something I might do.

I am in BLOCK right now. This is the last semester of college before I student teach*gulp* and it is meant to prepare us for student teaching. It’s the last education courses we will take before we get our degree and it is meant to cover everything that hasn’t been covered yet. I had heard a lot of things about BLOCK from various people so I didn’t know what to expect. Some people said it was hard, others just told me to show up, pay attention and you’ll pass. What I didn’t expect was being told everything I learned in my English classes was wrong. I guess that might be an over exaggeration but that’s how I felt this last two weeks of classes. Everything in me was screaming that telling kids they are worth a percentage is wrong but what can I do against a system that has been in place for years? I know education has made some incredible advances in recent years but we are still assigning grades and hours and hours worth of homework. I don’t believe in homework and honestly I don’t believe in grades either. Grades tell our students we care more about a number then them actually learning the material and homework tells us that we don’t actually think students are learning in the classroom. I understand the value of grades because we do need to assess where students are at. However, as a student that never helped me. I still remember failing math test after math test and while my teacher cared that I was failing he never bothered to sit down with me and ask “what do you not understand? What do we need to work on to get you where you need to be?” He was a good math teacher and he genuinely cared but he was a part of a system that thinks grades are the best way to motivate students and to show their learning. It’s not. The plain truth is grades do not show you where a student really is.

I took Comp I and II in high school. I spent a good chunk of the first semester wiring a research paper. I was super proud of that thing because I had written draft after draft and when I was ready to turn it in I knew it was good. Now my teacher gave the final grade but as a way to assess the students across the district all the English teachers got together and graded the papers. They then averaged the scores and handed those back to us as well. It didn’t affect my grade or factor into my grade at all it was just a way for the district to see and compare across the schools. I got a two on my word choice (which don’t even get me started on this 1,2,3,4 number system). That was all. I was given a number and nothing else. Do you really think this helped me as a student? Haha, no. I looked at that number and thought “I failed”. My “word choice” whatever that means, was a two, again whatever that means.

When my mom student taught she had a third grader cry because this little 8 year old went down on her standardized test from the year before. She was crying over a standardized test that didn’t affect her. An eight year old was so stressed about a test that she cried. She was eight. Let that sink in. There was a girl in my class that was a really really slow test taker. She was incredibly smart but she was just really slow. It sucked because no accommodations were made for her and she had to finish tests in the allotted time. Tests stressed her out because she had to finish otherwise she would get a bad grade even though she knew the material.

I hate the word smart because it everyone is smart in some way or another. Being smart doesn’t mean anything because I can read a hundred page book in a day. I could not foil a binomial but my old roommate who struggles to read even ten pages could foil ten binomials. Just because you don’t know the material does not mean you aren’t smart. It’s because whoever taught it to you didn’t care enough to make sure you understand what was being taught. My geometry teacher was a nice person. She was a good advisor for National Honor Society. She was a terrible teacher. She knew geometry. She understood it, she just didn’t know how to teach it. She would literally watch my class every day copy each others homework right before we had to turn it in. She knew we were doing it and yet she didn’t care to take the time to ask us what we didn’t understand. I still don’t understand geometry to this day because I had to teach myself and I was already terrible at math.

One of my professors for BLOCK told us that when we write behavioral objectives we need to have a percentage to measure what percentage of the class got the material. So say I was teaching how to cite properly (which honestly no one knows how to cite properly) and I said with “80% accuracy”, that meant I wanted at least 80% of the class to get it. If the entire class is not getting it you aren’t doing your job. It should 100% always.

As I write this I know I will never reach every student and inevitably as much I hate to say this someone will fall through the cracks. Someone will get left behind because I work for the pubic school system that cares more about numbers than students. I will have to turn in grades and more than likely assign homework as much as I will hate doing it. However, I shouldn’t be afraid to push back. I shouldn’t be afraid to present the research that shows reading the Canon or the “classics” is a waste of time because students aren’t actually reading them. I shouldn’t be afraid to change the face of education because I refuse to let those students fall through the cracks. I refuse to accept 80%. I refuse to keep students the same way we have been teaching because as a veteran of the public school system I know from first hand experience it doesn’t work.

-A

Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger

Everyone has heard of the Time Traveller’s Wife. It was a popular movie and then a popular book because everyone wanted to read the book before they saw the movie (or at least I hope they did). I didn’t like the book and frankly I hated the movie but I loved Her Fearful Symmetry.

Her Fearful Symmetry is a story about twins and the secret world that twins create. If you haven’t read it I recommend finding a copy. It is a bit strange and I didn’t like the ending but it had to end the way it did otherwise the story wouldn’t have made sense.

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After I read Her Fearful Symmetry Goodreads.com informed me that Audrey had also written a book called Raven Girl. The synopsis sounded very interesting: a postman falls in love with a raven and they have a child who is part raven. I knew I needed to get my hands on a copy. I could not find a copy of the book anywhere until I got a Thriftbooks.com account. Even if they didn’t have a copy in their warehouses they would send me a notification when they received a copy. I waited until it was cheaper and finally my copy came. Much to my surprise it is more of a children’s book then I thought.

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It is an illustrated book that tells the story of a girl who is a raven trapped in a human body. It is a modern fairy tale that is beautifully illustrated and beautifully told. It is unconventional and intriguing. It’s a short read but it contains a powerful message. It reminds me a lot of Grimm’s fairy tales because it’s honest and blunt. The Raven Girl feels as if a part of her is missing and when she finds a doctor that will help her get raven wings she finally feels right. It’s mystical intriguing and not at all what I thought it was going to be. That’s the best part about fairy tales they always end up surprising you in the end.

-A