I teach in New Haven in a magnet school called the Sound School. My high school is unique in that it is a comprehensive aquaculture school. Sound School students study the water, build boats, fish, and sail. Core classes are also taught, but in a more traditional way. I will teach this unit to my English 2 classes. My class is made up of a diverse group of students. My students are from New Haven and over 18 surrounding school districts. The diversity isn’t simply ethnic or racial, but socioeconomic also. I have students who are white, African American, Latino, and a mix of all three and more. Some of my students come from poverty-stricken families, while others are quite wealthy. Because my school has a student body of 300, this diversity is a source of enrichment, rather than a source of problems. I also encounter many of the same problems as other inner-city schools have -- low reading and writing skills. But from experience, I’ve learned that these units get the students excited. Exploring something in-depth gets their analytical and critical thinking skills going.
I don’t simply see my job, as an English teacher, as strengthening my students’ literacy skills. I also find it my responsibility to help my students become healthy, productive adults. In light of this, I always try to teach life skills as well in all my units. Students today are so overloaded with information from so many sources: media, family, peers, Internet, T.V, school, etc. Unfortunately, too many students, and adults as well, do not truly analyze information, but rather believe it as truth. Take the Internet for example. There are so many websites that offer “facts” about a variety of topics, yet many of them are incorrect and unreliable. If we are to arm our students with the critical thinking skills that they need in life today, we must teach them to think for themselves. With this objective in mind, I will not tell the students that
might actually be fiction. Many experts were duped into believing the authenticity of this work, as I expect my students will be. They must learn to question what they learn, even what they learn from me. Someone once said, and I don’t know the identity of the speaker, “The difference between an educated man and an uneducated man is that the uneducated man believes what he is told, and the educated man questions what he is told.” Students don’t need to necessarily know all the answers yet as long as good questions are being raised and resources are being used to figure out the answers.
Another objective for the students is to learn how writing can help someone heal and/or deal with problems or traumatic events. Many students today, although still young, have had to live through terrible adversity, and maybe they can learn to turn to writing for solace and therapy. Even if they haven’t had terrible past events in their life, simply being adolescents, they face adversity. I truly believe that adolescence is something we “survive.” I know many people tell the students that these are the best years of their lives, with all their lives ahead of them. I agree they have their whole lives ahead of them, but being a teenager is often hell, to be frank. Friends can be petty, body image can be shaky at best, peers can be brutal, parents don’t always understand, teens don’t always know who they are, and the list goes on. Adolescence is hard. Writing can be an outlet for students, especially when given the chance to write only for themselves. Through this unit, they can begin to write their own survival stories in a journal and in a photography project to be explained later.