Thursday, March 31, 2011

Age does not necessarily mean resilience

I've spent the last six weeks - I'm excluding the three 'earthquake weeks' - teaching my year 12 class the novel The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. 
Normally, I like to teach To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM)  to Year 12s, but my new school has TKAM set as a Year 11 text, and since I have the top-stream Year 12 class many of them studied TKAM last year. So, whilst I was wondering what to teach, one of my colleagues said she'd like to teach The Kite Runner and I thought, yeah, that'd be cool (I'd read in the NCEA Assessment Reports for A.S.2.3 that it's a text that is written about very well in the exam). So my school ordered a class set of The Kite Runner. This in itself blew me away, because I've never requested a text before and then actually had it show up a week later, all shiny and new and ready for my class to use. How luxurious. How awesome.

Anyway, we have just finished studying it. And despite it's brutality in parts, and also the fact that the pace slows considerably in the middle, my students loved it. I felt kinda weird about it after we got back from the 'earthquake-break' - it's a very traumatic novel. So I told my students my concerns - that I wished I had chosen something a little less depressing. They insisted that it was a good choice. The themes of prejudice, discrimination and betrayal did not put them off. O, to be 16 years old again...

Anyway, they just handed in their essays...and they have completely blown me away. This is a very very smart class indeed - I've known that since the first week I taught them. But most of the essays are excellent, and some are absolutely fantastic. Like, truly amazing. And better than anything I could write, or even think of writing (I am crap at spotting biblical allusions, for a start...). So, I have come to the conclusion that I made the right choice about teaching The Kite Runner, which is nice.

The downside to teaching this novel is that some of the girls in my class recommended I read A Thousand Splendid Suns by the same author. I love it when students recommend me books. So I read about two-thirds of it....and then I got to a horrifically violent scene, had a panic attack and keeled over on the bathroom floor, munting my leg in the process. Incidentally, none of the students in my class use colloquial and over-used words such as 'munting'. They are so much more eloquent than me. Anyway, I have learned from this experience that it's best not to read traumatic novels at a time when life is also a bit traumatic, even if it's OK to study them with a class of teenagers...

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