Death in the classroom

the pearl_2At least once during the English teacher’s career, we inflict the heinous crime of beating a perfectly good novel to death. I must confess that some time ago, during my maiden voyage as a new teacher, I perpetrated such an offense against The Pearl.

It all began one day in September as a perfectly legitimate assignment. I was to instruct the students on all the literary nuances that could be squeezed out of the novel. My class of eighth graders and I commenced with an author biography, a lively testament to John Steinbeck’s literary genius. It was from here that we embarked on our thoughtful migration into the book.

As we began to decipher each chapter, characters were delicately probed and analyzed. It was imperative that we assess traits and dispositions. We wanted to understand who and what each character stood for, their symbolic relationship to themselves as individuals and to mankind.
Discussions of the “settings” were tabled. Cooperative group activities were exercised. Students were given opportunity to examine both the historical significance of the novel’s setting, as well as the geographic clues that were relayed to us by the author. And, as if this wasn’t enough, we explored “themes”; the struggle for existence, free will vs. determination, social class, and oppression to a minority group.

September was creeping into October, and by this time of the dissection, these kids were screaming for mercy. But no, relentlessly we pushed on. After all, we had only touched the surface; we needed to consider, “STYLE”! Even though there are a mere six chapters, we sought after metaphors, similes, phrases, and descriptions!
With the patience of an archaeologist, we left no page untouched. Our mission was now to decipher the “point of view,” the third person narrative, our omnipotent action teller who guides us through the universal parable. Determined to seek out more, we struggled with “form and structure.” Was this important novel merely a simple legend or was it an allegory designed to teach us a moral lesson? This probing question lasted a good two classes. With pens in hands, we highlighted, scribbled notes in the margins, and to be sure, probably exhausted any pleasure that was intended by our notable American author, Steinbeck.

So, I confess, I killed The Pearl in a purely selfish attempt to teach the great American novel, to impose my love of literature and all its wonders.

Fur babies

The 21st century has changed our lifestyles in many ways; from the virtual world of social media to the free form spaces where we work. And not only have humans seen a change, but the communities we live in are much more animal aware catering to our pets. We have dog parks, comfort animals sitting on planes, and even daycare for our fur babies.

Today’s work place for some have become a bit friendlier, to pets that is. There are those who spend their day in the office with the companionship of their best friend… which is often not human. So, just to drive the point home, I have taken time to draw you a picture…literally… !

take your cat to work day

Take your cat(s) to work day!

take your dog to work day

Take your dog(s) to work day!

When it’s Fall

For those of us who are in the throws of falling leaves and are waking up to trees exchanging leaves of green for colors of harvest, today’s post brings to you my poem… “When it’s fall”….

©nl avery

©nl avery

Gelett Burgess and cursive writing

cursive When I was younger, well, let us say much younger, back in the day when recess consisted of jump robes and hopscotch, there was one event that occurred which truly made you feel as though you were growing up. It was the time when the teacher announced that she was going to teach us how to write in cursive. Writing in cursive was a rite of passage…a style of penmanship that was introduced at the very end of second grade…directly before summer vacation… so that it gave you just a hint of what would be in store for you when you returned to third grade.

Writing in cursive separated you from the lower elementary classes; for if you could write it then you could also read it; with its swirly letters flaunting curlicues and slants… like deciphering a secret language… it was called “script”.

But today the teaching of cursive is becoming more and more obsolete… so much so that there are debates whether or not they should demote it from scholarship at all… Some arguments contest that it an antiquated skill; a form of writing that is not needed with the advent of computers and the like.
So, like many other things we may find that it will become a lost art, out with the old and in with the new…. However what will really be lost with its notoriety of becoming passé will be the extinction of a youthful celebration in one’s life.

Gelett BurgessToday blog brings back the esteemed thinker: Gelett Burgess (1866-1951) American poet, artist, and humorist. Best noted for his iconoclast creations, the Goops, those less than perfect children! As an illustrator, Burgess created not only the persona of his characters, but also what they looked like, round headed and wiggly!

From his book titled More Goops and How Not to Be One (1908), I have extracted the poem “Write Right”. For those of you who may have encountered a ‘stringent’ penmanship teacher in your youth, this may hit home a wee bit more!

“If you were writing with your nose,
You’d have to curl up, I suppose,
And lay your head upon your hand;
But now, I cannot understand,
For you are writing with your pen!
So sit erect, and smile again!
You need not scowl because you write,
Nor hold your fingers quite so tight!
And if you gnaw the holder so,
They’ll take you for a Goop, you know!”

First image: Elementary school children standing and watching teacher write at blackboard, Washington, D.C., Johnston, Frances Benjamin, photographer, 1899?

World Watch: FIFA

soccerIn a world that is often divided by politics, religion, and opinions, we have been graced by a somewhat unlikely connector, The World Cup. For here is a contest that has spurred the interest of so many. No matter what language, what culture, or where you are, it has brought the world together. And although we all have our favorite teams, the one we ‘cheer’ through thick and thin, the one we would travel across the globe to ‘spur-on’, the one that seduces us to stay up way beyond our bedtime, the one we say an extra prayer for…this sport has united and mesmerized people from all hemispheres.

And so I say, thank you FIFA for you have brought a bit of civility to our chaotic and confusing lives. For no matter where we are you can assuredly turn to someone and ask “What’s the score?” and they will know what you mean.

soccer ball Today’s post introduces us to the library of humor from Punch Magazine. Founded by Henry Mayhew and engraver Ebenezer Landells, its name and masthead was adopted from the famous French Punch and Judy puppets. Beginning in 1841, the British magazine, Punch, brought to its readers comedy and satire each week. Filled with satirical drawings, the term ‘cartoon” was coined. The magazine’s popularity had its ups and downs, when in 2002 its diminished circulation dwindled forcing the publication to no longer publish its wit and humor.

From Mr. Punch’s Book of Sports (1910) I bring you a bit of light humor in the form of poetry. Steal a moment between “games” to get an inside look at the world’s most popular sport…here is FOOT-BALL À LA MODE.

FOOT-BALL À LA MODE

[Hardly a week passes without our hearing of one or more dangerous accidents at football.]

A manly game it is, I think,
Although in private be it spoken,
While at a scrimmage I don’t shrink,
That bones may be too often broken.
I snapped my clavicle last week,
Just like the rib of an umbrella;
And sprained my ankle, not to speak
Of something wrong with my patella.
Last season, too, my leg I broke,
And lay at home an idle dreamer,
It’s not considered quite a joke
To contemplate a broken femur.
And when, despite the doctor’s hints,
Again at foot-ball I had tussles,
I found myself once more in splints,
With damaged gastronomic muscles.
Some three times every week my head,
Is cut, contused, or sorely shaken;
My friends expect me brought home dead,
But up to now I’ve saved my bacon.
But what are broken bones, my boys,
Compared with noble recreation?
The scrimmages and all the joys
Of Rugby or Association!