English 341: It’s Like This

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Author: smurphy41

“I can’t believe that I gave my panties to a geek.”

“I can’t believe that I gave my panties to a geek.”

Que Knight Rider theme song.

I was introduced to Knight Rider when blasting 80’s/90’s songs with my parents and aunt and uncle on one of our driving adventures when I was in high school. I have yet to actually watch the TV series, but the theme song catches my ear every time…and do I even need to mention David Hasselhoff and the Pontiac Trans Am.

My mom also exposed me to her love of Ms. PacMan—the one and only “video” game my mom has ever showed any interest in. Though I grew up playing the PlayStation adventure version of good ol’ regular PacMan, I still secretly love the sound of PacMan dying (despite the defeat that sound signifies.

I love Lord of the Rings (though I admit I have never read any of the books).

I have read me some Shakespeare (and The Tempest is actually my favorite).

Star Wars is my thing. The Goonies, Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and Ferris Buller’s Day Off are all in the collection of movies I enjoy watching. And Footloose is definitely a favorite.

Cap’n Crush is my family’s favorite dessert!

“Pour Some Sugar on Me” is a regularly listen to song. I secretly love “Time After Time”—except when listening to it on repeat when watching my parent’s prom video.

Etc.

Though I had several recognitions to 80’s pop culture references while reading Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, I still struggled to understand and recognized the overflowing amount of references to my parent’s childhood. The ample amount of references bogged down my reading, due my curiosity in the references, but did not diminish my complete pleasure of reading this brilliant, fun, and extremely nerdy novel. My investment in the character and finding the three gates led me towards having a difficult time setting the novel down to engage in the real world. I was captivated by the story line, the unique characters, the fun references, and the dense themes hidden within. Filled with games, movies, and adventure, the novel also did a great job at supporting ides such as global warming, technology overdrive, prejudices, etc.

While I was completely captivated and content when reading the novel, the end left me completely off balance. Most novels leave me…unsatisfied? Because I am not yet prepared to leave the world in the novel. But Ready Player One left me with an unsatisfying desire for more. Though it is a great possibility of it being intentional on Cline’s end, I needed more. I needed more of a conversation regarding the more dense elements of the novel…the destruction human kind had on the world, the intense illusion of reality (and that damn red button), the conversation in regards to gender…

I understand the aesthetic Cline intended for such an ending, but I think an emphasis on these topics throughout the novel could have clarified the purpose of the novel—the purpose of spending time on so many 80’s pop culture references. Despite my desire for more, I admire Cline taking on such a beast of a novel. It is smart, fun, geeky, “force”ful, entertaining, moving, captivating, and thought provoking.

…..

In my Educational Psychology class the professor asked the entire room of future teacher if robots could replace out jobs as teachers. Instantly debate, questioning, and resistance emerged.

Aftering taking a passenger seat in the conversation and little to people discuss their thoughts on the matter, I pulled out Ready Player One…and those that knew the novel just smiled and nodded—“great example”.

I think Ready Player One demands the same question…can real human interactions be replaced by technology? What are the limits and the boundaries? Can artificial replace the natural?

I argue that in a way, yes, teachers could be replaced by robots and technology. According to the novel, humans can reach this extreme level of connectedness through technology. But, as a person who will soon be depending on human interaction to eat, live, and survive I argue that human cannot be replaced—even Halliday urges, “Don’t hide in here forever.”

I think this novel urges us to recognize technology—to admire it. To value it. To see the fun and pleasantries of it. To utilize it for good. But I also think it urges us to recognize the beautiful, authentic world in which we live (Happy Earth Day!) and the amazing humans within it.

I think it urges us to find a balance.

What Voice did You Hear?

What Voice did You Hear?

Last semester in Teaching Multicultural Literature I was exposed to Cuban literature by reading Nancy Alonso’s Disconnect/Desencuentro. This series of short stories (written in Spanish and English) was published by Cubanabooks which was founded by CSU Chico professor Sara Cooper. The collection of stories from the book and from Sara Cooper herself (who worked closely with Alonso in publishing this book) sparked in me a curious interest in Cuban literature (especially written by females).

To continue this curiosity I chose to read Margarita Engle’s collection of poems Enchanted Air. This collection of poems is a memoir that carefully follows Margarita’s journey of growing up. The poems explore Margarita’s family, her passion of words, her own exploration of many places, her fascination with horses, and most importantly, her two cultures/wings—Cuba and Euro-America. Through the narrative of Margarita’s own experiences and feelings, the history of Cuba and America are traced.

I really appreciated this collection of poems. It is beautiful and inspiring how Engle carefully explores history and the struggle between two cultures. These poems and the way in which they work would be highly beneficial for students who are themselves struggling with two cultures—two identities. The poems follow this struggle of Margarita not knowing how the two distinct halves of herself work together to make her a complete person. Following this struggle and ending the collection of poems in a place of understanding, peace, and hope will help students to come their own place of acceptance. Students need narratives that reflect themselves and their feelings and I believe a diverse curriculum should be a priority.

I think these poems would also be great in acting as supplemental support for history classes/lessons as a way to explore a narrative about Cuban history, the Cold War, and even the Civil Rights Movement. Giving students alternative voices and perspectives of history is highly important and Enchanted Air would be a great resource for doing just that. Usually only one voice is applied the history—a white Eurocentric voice—and it is often misguiding. It is necessary for students to be exposed to different voices in order for them to become kind, supportive citizens who are well educated.

While I myself struggle with my own liking of poetry, I was able to recognize the necessity of using poems for these particular topics. The use of poetry instead of prose allowed for the history to shine through without being boring. If prose was used to relay the historical elements found in these poems, there would be a lack of effectiveness and curiosity. By getting chunks of history through poetry, a natural curiosity is evoked and then reader are able to go explore that history on their own to better understand the poetry (but does not completely turn on audience off if they are not aware of the history in the poems). The use of poetry also makes the poems and stories within universal. Different readers are able to intake different meaning and elements to create a different emotional connection to the poems (which is great for students).

Overall, this collection of poems has great potential to do wonderful things in the classroom (and at different levels).

*****

I am determined to write a cento from this collection of poems, but I am in need of more time and patience to be able to do so.

Tired Pine (Inspired by William Carlos Williams)

so much depends

upon

 

a tired pine

tree

 

rattled with wild

wind

 

beside the sleeping

house

I do it for the fame and money…

I do it for the fame and money…

Since the beginning of the semester I have been really working through making connections between the classes’ focus on elementary education and my personal focus on secondary education. There are many correlations and connections between the foci—several of which are obvious, and others which are difficult to fully synthesis and work with.

I have an obvious adoration of books and literature. And a genuine interest in literacy. And education as a whole. Clearing making this a joyous class for me.

I am in love with the fact I get to read books—all kinds of books! And am intrigued by the insights about the literacy of young students. And the clear support of reading and creativity in the education system.

But how can we truly connect all this? From my current standpoint and experiences, there is little to no interaction between Liberal Study students, SPED students, and students with a single subject focus. Elementary is separate from secondary. Special education is separate from both. But there has to be (and needs to be) a stronger connection and relationship between all the areas of study. There needs to be communication and collaboration between all educators in order to ensure the best possible education for all students.

This class has really given me a new found appreciation for elementary school teachers. First of all, they have to stay with the same set of students all day, every day—sometimes even for several years in placed in a loop system. If I did not have the opportunity to get a new set of faces every hour I probably could not fully function as a teacher. Secondly, they are responsible for covering a large array of content—they act as a sole source of information for all subjects. This would terrify me. Though I am completely captivated by all subject matters, I love having a solid foundation in a single content area. And lastly (for the time being), they prepare my students for me.

They teach them to read.

They teach them to write.

They set the foundation for my future students…they set the tone for my future classes.

No pressure!

It has been so insightful to delve into the ways in which elementary teachers can and should teach reading to students. And I think by the end of this class, I will be able to shift and alter my beliefs about teaching literature and reading to secondary students based on what I learn about teaching literature and reading to elementary students…

But not every student gets to opportunity to make these connections. To witness what is going on in other grade levels. And I believe this lack of collaboration and exploration between elementary and secondary education is creating a disparity in our education system…at least from my current standpoint.

There needs to be an understanding between how elementary teachers are teaching students and what secondary teachers are expecting of their students. A lack of understanding creates deep frustration for all, including the most important audience—students.

I love the ideas of wild reading, as presented by Miller, and I bow down to the elementary teachers who create wild readers out of my future students. It is important to create students who appreciate reading and literature (maybe I am biased by my own love for books?). But it is a great fear of mine that I will crush those wild reading habits when these readers reach my secondary classroom. Not that I intend to and not that I do not want to continue that habit of reading in the wild. But because reading for purpose is never as fun as reading for passion.

(Insert all my great ideas of maintaining an engaged and interested readership of my students—because they do exist.)

But how do I support the ideas presented by Miller in a secondary classroom. I love the idea of read-alouds, it is a great way to create a community and a sense of interest and wonder in students. But can the functions of a secondary classroom support that daily routine? I want my students to read for fun and maintain a log. But can that be supported with there will be many required readings (though some of those required readings will be innovative and fun AKA not Shakespeare or The Great Gatsby *mini gag reflex*). How will a support the great ideas presented by Miller?

(Answers to come by end of semester…maybe…hopefully…)

How do teachers from both elementary and secondary schools come together to create a plan of attack? A collaborative approach to maintain a continual and fluid approach to learning and reading? How do teachers bridge this gap?

I call for a joining of hands. A uniting of ideas. A collaboration of creativity. A combination of approaches. A strong sense of community among all educators—despite varying views, beliefs, philosophies, etc. I call for a respect and an understanding between all teachers for the sack of our students, our futures, and our world.

I hope to further explore these connections during my time in this class and I hope to develop a stronger sense of how to instill a collaboration between elementary and secondary teachers.

Why Can’t My Application Essays Develop This Easy?

Why Can’t My Application Essays Develop This Easy?

I have been thinking about how I wanted to approach this blog all week. How did the Miller text resonate with me? How am I going to synthesize what I read in the Miller book with my own experience and everything else I am learning in my classes? How am I going to use this reading to really interact with the world?…

My boyfriend and I were driving to his mom’s house tonight for his birthday. And driving is when I do a lot of my thinking. And when I jabber on about all my crazy thoughts and ideas while by boyfriend patiently smiles and nods (while inside his head he is thinking pure sports). I started asking him about his reading habits and the fact he was a “fake reader” in middle and high school. I then got a brilliant idea to make a movie interviewing him, his mom (who is a kindergarten teacher), and his step sister (who started 8th grade with a 3rd/4th grade reading level). And it was going to be BRILLIANT!

My boyfriend (Riley) refused to be recorded.

His mom (Andrea) was willing, but after a long day of being with 5 year olds… well, need I say more.

And the step sister (Natalie) is shy, so I knew a one on one conversation without a camera would be more authentic.

So even though I don’t have an awesome video in lieu of a written blog post, I did have some really great conversations with the three of them regarding reading…

I have been with Riley for five years and I have seen him touch less than five books (excluding textbooks…and every book he has touched encompasses something in regards to sports). Even while taking AP Literature class in high school. He passed the class with an A and did not read a single book. I’m pretty sure he wrote his papers based off of my explanations of all the books. And this lack of being a reader has always perturbed me because his mom is a teacher and a strong advocate for reading…

                Are you a reader?

                Uh… no! (with a “you already know this” tone and a hint of a chuckle)

                Were you ever a reader?

                I used to read all the time when I was little. (The Boxcar books were some of his favorites… he HATED Harry Potter…“I hate when people write about things that are clearly ‘fake’”)

                When did you stop reading and why?

                Sara, I was busy playing sports. I did not have time to read. I think I stopped reading around 8th grade.

Andrea had a similar response. She remembered that she stopped reading for pleasure during 8th grade. And was so thrilled when she graduated college because she could finally start reading again! (Funny thing how our identities switch!…if we want so bad to be readers, then why don’t we develop the habits of a reader?)

Her and I then had a great conversation around her stories as a teacher. The English Language Arts program at the school she teaches at. Her husband’s reading habits. Her friend that just finished her Master’s thesis about the reading habits of boys. And many interesting topics emerged.

  1. Her husband does not read books…an undiagnosed reading “disability”. A father who did not read. A deaf mother. He has this mindset that “readers” look down on “non-readers” and judge them.

                But I don’t think that is the case…well…actually, maybe that is true. Many people who do not     read books are judged by those who do read books.

  1. Fairy tales. She taught a whole unit on royalty. After reading The Princess and the Pea one of her kindergarteners said, “I wouldn’t want to be that princess.” When she taught 4th grade (and when Riley was also one of her students) she has them write their own version of Cinderella. Fairy tales have a very “white narrative.” Oh, and without prompting she discussed how disturbing Little Red Riding Hood is.
  2. After lunch she used to read a story out-loud to her kindergarten class then they would get their “book boxes” to read their own independent books. This because a struggle for her, because as infant readers they had to read out loud…their little brains can’t handle reading without the verbal action of reading. It was hard to maintain an atmosphere that allowed for reading when they were all trying to “whisper” their stories. Now she does “reading circle” and during “free time” most of them immediately rush over to her huge class library.
  3. SIPS. An intervention reading program that the school just embraced as a standards for the entire school. I didn’t fully understand the complete concepts behind it, but I guess it works great for the school. And they have a lot of success in English Language Arts. Somehow is really allows students to read at their own level and have competition with themselves instead of with other students.

It was a really fun, interactive dialogue happening between the three of us. And I learned a lot.

Then I had a dialogue with Natalie (the step sister with the low reading level). She is shy and the whole family dynamic is unique, so this was my first real conversation with her (yes, even after five years).

I didn’t think I would get her to talk to me, but she actually kept the conversation going and had a lot to say about reading and her English class.

Her parents got divorced when she was young and her mom moved around a lot, so she was home-schooled for several years (that is how she fell far behind in her reading levels). She just started attending public school this year (her 8th grade year) at the same school Andrea teaches at. There has been a lot of struggle getting her to read and write…

                Are you a reader?

                A fast replied, no!

                Why do you say that?

                A reader is someone who reads in their free time and I don’t do that.

                Why don’t you like to read?

                I get so bored! It just…is boring.

                Did your mom make you read much when she taught you?

                No. That is where I fell behind with my reading levels.

I later discovered that a lot of this boredom is due to the fact her teacher picks out books for her to read and that when she tries to read books above her AR level that difficulty turns her off toward reading. I get a sense that it makes her feel “stupid” and unworthy, which is why she finds them “boring.”

                Have you found any books that you really like reading?

                She immediately lit up and smile…City of Bones!

I have never read this series, but we had a conversation about how interesting and exciting they were. She also disclosed that she liked The Maze Runner.

               What about Divergent and The Hunger Games?

                I read parts of them, but I didn’t like them as much as other series. I really tried reading them,    but then I just got caught up in watching the movies instead. (In this case, I felt like it was more     of a desire to fit in with other girls her age)

                Do you ever have to read different books than what your friend are reading? How does that     make you feel?

                Ya. Sometimes it motivates me to be like the others, but I still struggle with it.

                Have you ever pretended to read during a time in class that you were supposed to be reading?

                A secret smile and a giggled yes.

She then brought up that they had just finished reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream—they just turned in a project on it today. We had a great conversation about Shakespeare and his funny language and his family and how he invented the word “swagger.” She said the reading wasn’t so bad because the teacher explained it all, but when it came to writing a paper on it that had to have quotes it was difficult to remember what it all meant. I reassured her that I am an English major and still have a really hard time reading his language.

And while this whole blog may seem irrelevant to Miller and her ideas, it is not. My conversations covered many of the concepts addressed in the frost chapter of the book. “Fake-readers.” Making time in the classroom for students to read. What motivates students to read. Identifying as a reader. Making time to be a reader.

The conversations were highly insightful and I benefited from the dialogue more than this blog can ever reflect. I was able to view the process through the lenses of an actual teacher and through the perspective of a “fake reader” and a struggling reader who was never given the opportunity to create an identity as a reader. These different stories and dialogues reflected the importance of Miller’s ideas AMC the need to create wild readers.

Sara Murphy – One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish: The Sequel

Sara Murphy – One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish: The Sequel

I am definitely a reader, but I not, by any means, a story-teller. I do not have a “once upon a time” (because that “time” would be in the not-so-distant-past of 1993) or a “far away land” (because Quincy is only a mere hour and a half away—though there are some magical landscapes along the way) or a “knight in shining armor” (because he can’t stand wearing anything other than Nike basketball shorts).

Despite my lack of a story, I can disclose a few things about myself.

I have an obvious adoration for books (I did choose my career based on this love).

Dance makes my heart happy.

I cannot help but have a smile on my face when I see giraffes…or any other animal. That warm, fuzzy feeling I get around animals fuels my desire to open my own animal shelter.

I have a genuine interest in sex. In the purest of ways. My favorite class thus far in college is Biology of Sex! I hope that during my endeavors as a teacher I get the opportunity to make a change in the sexual education system. Our inability to openly talk about sex, mixed with our highly sexualized culture, creates a huge problem for our country.

I love going on walks and bike rides. They make me feel fresh and alive. And provide me with opportunities to think about things like—the constructed concept of time!

That is who I am.

(Subject to change when deemed necessary).

 

What does it mean to be “a reader?” That is a great walking/biking thought…

I think that to be a reader is to be a consumer (though readers can also be producers and to be a producer you must be a reader and therefore a consumer). To be a reader one must be—a human. Any human. Even a human in cultures that do not interact with written products (though that is a whole paper/idea of its own…maybe I’ll save that for a future walk).

In my own life I am a constant consumer. I read…

Texts.

E-mails.

Twitter. Facebook. Instagram.

The brand being promoted on clothing.

Nutritional facts.

Ted Talks.

Subtitles in movies.

Notes on my prescriptions.

Etc.

Etc.

Etc.

Books. Textbooks. Children’s book. Young Adult books. Classic books. Graphic novels. Books for pleasure. Books for pleasure that really bring me no pleasure at all. Books for school. Books for school that bring me much pleasure…I just might be turning into the next Dr. Seuss…despite my stated lack of story-telling skills.

My ways of reading (outside of school and inside of school) weave in and out of each other. Sometimes they are perpendicular. Sometimes they are parallel. And sometimes they dance circles around each other. Sometimes my joy of reading can be revived in the school setting (like in reading Chris Colfer) and sometimes my disinterest in words kicks in when reading outside of school (like in reading DMV paperwork).

But…as an English Education student, who is interested in literacy studies, I find a way to continually connect the things and the ways I read. I read Young Adult books outside of school because I am interested in what my future students are reading (and because I simply enjoy reading them). And I read articles outside of school that increase my understanding of my required readings for inside school. The cycle continues.

The variation I find in my own ways of reading is discussed in Williams’ piece. Williams discusses the fluidity of what it means to be literate and to be a reader—it is not a finite thing. It is personalized. It has many synonyms. It cannot and should not remain stagnant. As Williams points out, it is necessary to allow students (and for teachers themselves) to recognize the fluidity of the definition of “a reader.” When this recognition occurs, the way students view themselves (and the ways society views them) can evolve and a true state of learning can take plan.