Summer Reading, Part 2

First of all, before someone misunderstands and thinks I’m complaining, I need to make it clear that I am NOT complaining. I love my job. I have no complaints.

I’m discovering, though, that many of my students didn’t do their Summer Reading. Students are supposed to read three books over the summer. Once they return to school, they are tested over two of the books; the third book is the first unit discussed in the class. I didn’t have any control over the choices. That was, I think Randal’s fault decision. Randal is a great guy. But he did choose Oliver Twist for the 9th grade College Prep. classes. I mean. Come on. Right? So I told the kids that we’re going to test over the books and move on. They seemed okay with that. Besides Oliver Twist, my 9th graders also read The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway, and The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver. Since I get to pick which book we’ll study and simply assess them on the other two, I picked the one I liked best: The Bean Trees. They indicated that they liked that one best, too. Actually, I think most of my 9th graders may have read the Summer Reading. Just not closely. They didn’t do well on the Old Man test. I assigned a project for Oliver Twist because (ducks) I haven’t read it. I don’t plan to, either. Dammit, Randal, anyway. So I’m asking them to create a newspaper based on the book. Very good idea, if I do say so myself.

My 10th grade Honors classes read Fences, by August Wilson; The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck; and The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway. I agree with all of those selections — all classics of American literature that should be read. I think they did their reading. They did very well on the Fences essay test. The Grapes objective test is Thursday. So that means we’re discussing The Sun Also Rises — very interesting in light of the portrayal of the Jewish character Robert Cohn by the narrator Jake Barnes.

The College Prep. 10th graders read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou; A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway; and A Raisin in the Sun, by Lorraine Hansberry. We’re discussing Raisin. Again, they didn’t do well on the Caged Bird test. They did better on Farewell. One student, however, really worried me. He didn’t do well on his Caged Bird test. Then he turned in his Friendly Letter late. He’s lucky I took it. Who am I kidding? I’m soft. Anyway, he stared at the Farewell test for about 15 minutes. Then he approached me and asked if he could go to his locker and get something to do. He admitted he hadn’t read the book, and he said he didn’t think he could fake his way through the questions. I was impressed by his candor. However, this put his grade at a low F. I know a parent of a student at this school would find even a C unacceptable. I know that right now, a lot of my students are currently sitting on a fat C, but since there are only two or three grades, things will change. In most cases, see no cause for alarm. Except this one student didn’t attempt the test. A “0” on a test! So I e-mailed his mom. She asked that I call to follow up. She dressed him down. He is supposed to come to me tomorrow and discuss the possibility of working out a solution. I have to decide what I will do. I honestly don’t know. I want to help. He did, after all, have the Summer Reading assignment. True, he was away all summer, and Mom couldn’t watch him like a hawk. However, as she said, that’s no excuse. She hinted that I might want to discuss things like this with him first in the future. Then I felt bad. Like a rat. I am used to this middle school mentality where you can’t trust a kid and have to go straight to the parents. If she is any indication of the parents at my school, I’m even more excited.

2 thoughts on “Summer Reading, Part 2

  1. Make him read the book then write an essay.

    I never read Oliver Twist either tho I have seen Oliver! many times! Heeee! I think that Artful Dodger dude was on HR Pufnstuf.

  2. I've never read Oliver Twist either. Is it really that bad? We have a copy lying around, curiousity may make me read it. I adore Hemingway, though. Unfortunately (well, fortunately) I never read him in high school – not because I had to. I just found him on my own and started reading. I wish I'd been able to read him with a class though and discuss it more. I love all this book talk you've been doing lately – just in case you couldn't tell!

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