Farewell, American Literature.

English Literature. Not something that ever grabbed me at school, and certainly not something I would ever say I was passionate about. Until last year.

Before I began my training programme, I decided it was time to brush up on my Literature. First up, To Kill a Mockingbird.

From the outset, I wasn’t overly excited about this book, the cover is plain and dull, and the font was really small, but I went for it anyway. After a couple of days reading, I was absolutely hooked. The lives of Jem and Scout Finch were all I could think about, and as for Boo Radley, I literally couldn’t wait to find out what his story was.

Other than the loveable characters, I became totally wrapped up in the story, the morals, and the way such difficult topics such as rape and racism, were dealt with, all through the narrative of a child. What got me more than anything though, was how I felt when I finished the book. As much of a cliché as it may be, the book takes you on a total ‘journey’ and by the end you feel humbled, by the kind acts of some people, and the way they fight for justice.

Harper Lee created something very special in the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird, a story that is loved and cherished by many, and a book that can really teach you a lesson or two.

Secondly, The Crucible. I have to say, I initially struggled with this one. The story is pretty intense, and there are an awful lot of characters to get your head around, however having spent the past 7 weeks teaching my Year 10s, I can see why it is a totally fantastic text to study. The amount of detail in the characters, themes and development of the story is insane – and it was wonderful to see my top set class really get their teeth into all the different interpretations, coming up with ideas that had never even crossed my mind.

Finally, Of Mice and Men. So okay, I read this when I was at school and thought it was fine. And I haven’t taught it this year. However, I have seen this being taught, and love how accessible it is, to a whole range of different abilities. It also tackles different themes and morals, that I don’t think any 15 year old would think of otherwise. More importantly than this though, it has some of the two most loveable characters anyone could ever wish for. George and Lennie get under your skin, they stick in your mind, and their friendship gives you a fuzzy feeling in the pit of your stomach.

So imagine, after my crash course in Literature, I found out that American Literature was being taken out of the curriculum. I was gutted.

As stated above, I quickly found a love for Literature through these novels, that before did not exist. But more than that, I think these novels have become so recognisable, that even now, I have some Key Stage 3 students asking me whether they get to read Of Mice and Men, or not. Therefore, it is seems a shame to take them away.

As a teacher, I am sure many people struggle to get their students interested in certain topics, and it is no different in English. However, something I have learnt this year is that it is much easier to teach something, if you, yourself, are enthusiastic towards it. Something which I feel I am, with the novels mentioned above.

But now it’s all change, and I am having to get my head round things such as: Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and A Christmas Carol. 3 texts which I have read and promptly forgotten about, and would rather never teach (but that’s impossible!) I remain positive, that they will grow on me, that their stories and characters will unfold, and steal a little corner of my heart, but they’ve got some pretty powerful competition to contest with first.

So, as September rolls around, and I prepare to teach To Kill a Mockingbird for the first, and last, time, I will definitely be mourning the fact that younger children will not have the delight of meeting Jem, Scout, Atticus and Boo, anytime in the near future. I do not give up hope though, that one day in the distant future, these marvellous books will return to our schemes of work.


One thought on “Farewell, American Literature.

  1. But remember even if they’re not on the syllabus you can encourage your students to read them, use extracts, talk about them etc. I’ve enjoyed teaching all three at different times. And if you haven’t yet had chance to see The Crucible on stage, I hope you soon can. It’s electric in the theatre – I saw a fantastic performance at The Old Vic with Richard Armitage in the John Procter role last year.

    Now you just have to work on how you can make A Christmas Carol etc as dynamic in your classroom. It can be done! Good luck.


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