odds and ends

I don’t want to sound big-headed, but I know I am particularly good at teaching certain texts. The Sniper, I know inside out. Ditto The Raven. I’m fairly handy at Romeo and Juliet and well-polished when imparting The Odyssey to my 9th graders.

Part of this is necessity- these poems, plays and stories are in the 9th grade textbook so I must use them to the best of my ability. It’s a fact that I could choose other short stories and plays to work with, but I don’t because the other part of the equation is that I genuinely love those texts. I’m passionate about them and I know I’ll be able to illustrate that passion to my students in one way or another.

William Gibson’s The Miracle Worker has worked its’ way into my repertoire over the last two years and, if I’m really being honest, I’m not good at teaching this play yet. The key to teaching any text is to find essential bits and pieces you can present and break down with your students so they understand the building blocks of what their reading. Take The Sniper for example- it’s a cracking good story with a brilliant twist ending that students enjoy… but it’s also a perfect example of the plot curve in action, which is one angle I use when we read it.

I’ve never gained a good grasp on those types of lessons with The Miracle Worker. It’s a great play and one my students seem to truly enjoy… but besides a discussion of dramatic action versus dramatic activity, I feel that many of the lessons I’ve gathered to impart with TMW are ones I’ve already done through other short stories. Usually by the second or third go-around, I’ve figured out how to teach whatever text is is I’ve decided to use, but The Miracle Worker continues to befuddle me.

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Elliot, Henry, and I have been watching a lot of Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoons lately, a Halloween gift to the boys from my parents.

Elliot’s become quite the conneussier of Famous Studios cartoon; he’s also a tremendous fan of the Fleischer Brothers’ early work on Popeye the Sailor. Of the two, I prefer the Popeye cartoons far more to the Casper shorts, but I can see what the boys dig about the friendly ghost. They’re colorful and cheerful. All the Casper cartoons we’ve seen follow a familiar pattern- Casper ostracized by other ghosts, Casper frightening humans he wishes to befriend… Casper triumphing in the end in some way by earning a friend, usually an open-minded child or pet of some kind. Kids like that kind of thing.

As an adult watching these cartoons, I can’t help but question some of the logic presented here. Is Casper the ghost of a child who died, or has he always been a ghost? In one cartoon, he has a ghost mother. Do ghosts get married? If so, can they procreate? If not… well then Casper’s a really tragic figure. Heady stuff, folks.

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I’m taking Ellen to see Paul Simon in concert this Tuesday.

Paul Simon is, by a wide margin, Ellen’s favorite musician. On the very first night the two of us hung out together, I managed to lure her back to my apartment by offering to show her my collection of Paul Simon vinyl records. She plays his albums on a nearly constant rotation in our house. When I heard he was coming to our neck of the woods, I knew I’d have to figure out a way to get her to that show.

I grew up with Paul Simon’s music and I’m looking forward to the concert, but not to the same degree as Ellen. Her excitement has gotten me thinking: Are there any musicians I’m as passionate about as she is to Simon? The only one who springs to mind is Elvis Costello, really. I guess there was a brief moment when Bob Dylan was a big deal to me when I was in college.

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One Response to “odds and ends”

  1. Like Ellen, I’m a huge Paul Simon fan and he’s way out in front of his closest competitors in the league of Musicians I Like.

    I saw him in London earlier this year, where he gave a great show and I was able to SHAKE HIS HAND when he walked to the front of the stage to greet fans. I still grin every time I think about that.

    I hope you have a wonderful time!

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