I have recently completed my fourth year of teaching at a private high school in Queens, New York. The student body, primarily comprised of English Language Learners, has proven itself to be both richly rewarding and appropriately challenging (as all things are in life). Usually I spend my summers teaching summer school, which is its own universe of experiences, but I took this summer off to spend with my newly expanded family.
As I now have a much more abundant amount of time, it is my intention to finally share some insights and lessons that I’ve found were either received well by my students, or ones that just seemed really well-planned.
My school does not require in-depth lesson plans, unlike NYC Public Schools, and so these posts will not generally have specific lesson plans; they will instead have general outlines for the whole unit. Bear in mind that these units are designed by myself to be highly flexible depending on the needs of students and their skills. (But, as educators, isn’t that how we plan everything out, anyway?”)
In my first year at my present school, I took over the instruction of grades 7-8, 10, and 11. Grades 7 and 8 were combined into one class and had a textbook designed to fit the Common Core framework. English 10 and 11, however, were not given a set curriculum; I was simply told that I was free to choose my books as long as they aligned with Common Core, though ideally with a preference towards the more traditional literary works. This was the most disastrous instruction I’ve ever received–not because of it’s vagueness, but simply because there is a certain hellish prison that comes from that much freedom. (It’s a paradox, really: the more freedom of choice you have, the more difficult the decision; the fewer options available, the easier the choice becomes.)
When it comes to “traditional literature” in a curriculum, I’m going to say that that is not much of an issue for me: I went to Catholic school, and graduated long before No Child Left Behind was even conceived. I distinctly remember my English 10 textbook containing the full, original-language texts of Macbeth, Beowulf, Paradise Lost, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” and many others, plus a seemingly archaic translation to The Canterbury Tales. I read The Odyssey and The Tempest as part of my summer reading prior to that, so being told “traditional texts preferred” meant nothing to me. Imagine my surprise at the dearth of such classics on the Common Core suggested text list!