Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer Reading Hell

Do you remember summer reading for Honors English in high school?  I don't - I'm getting kind of old despite the fact I have a toddler running around at my feet.   Things from my childhood get fuzzier every day.  I know I read a lot every summer but don't remember anyone making me do it. 

Last year for Honors English 9, my daughter and her friends had to read Great Expectations and Mr. Pip - a book of perhaps lesser literary quality (I only say that because I never read it in college).  This year, it's Huckleberry Finn and yet another book of perhaps less quality that's similar to Huck Finn.

Kids are dropping out of Honors English like rain falling from the sky.  The worst part is not the reading - it's the requirement for note taking - very detailed, specifically formatted notes assigned by a teacher who clearly doesn't love her job. 

I can think of no better way to suck the enjoyment out of literature. 

If I were an English teacher, I would assign books that teenagers would enjoy reading over the summer.  Imagine that.  Catcher in the Rye, perhaps?  Something more modern would be fine too.   It would be better to have them read one of the Harry Potter books and look for certain literary techniques and themes.  They are in every piece of decent literature, not just the ones that are painful for teens to read. 

Today, I left a message for my daughter's counselor and also an email asking (begging) her to do the course drop now, and not the customary 10 days into the quarter - if only so my personal suffering will end.   I offered her cookies.  I would actually bake monthly treats for her - pumpkin bread, cookies, blueberry pie, whatever she wants just to expedite this one request.

The problem for my daughter is there's a test on day 2 and a grade for the ridiculous amount of notes she has to take (and will likely get a zero for anyway if they don't precisely follow the rules) - the grades flow downhill to the class  you downgrade to.  Not good for the GPA. 

Until I hear from the counsellor, she has to suck it up and do it, but one person suffering in a home makes us all suffer.  I'd rather be baking cookies.


  1. I remember reading a bunch of crap in HS. One of my teachers picked a very, very dark lineup. The only book I liked was Tale of Two Cities. Some Alexandre Dumas might be better for teens. Lots of action and swashbuckling. Tale of Two Cities is great, too. Action & romance.

  2. I am a hero. I got an email that's she's been moved to the regular class. Thank God.

    I liked A Tale of Two Cities too.

    I agreed to read Huck Finn in solidarity with my daughter - 50 pages a day for the next five days. I read the first chapter - it was awesome (for me as an adult writer). Well done, Mark Twain. :)

  3. Holy canoli! That's kind of a crazy teacher. I bow down to the kinds of teachers that make learning fun. I tip my hat to teachers who make learning just learning. But teachers who suck the soul out of learning? Blech. Congrats on getting her out of the class!

  4. Good work getting her out of the class! I agree books like Catcher In The Rye make for much more enjoyable summer reading. The problem with honors courses is that sometimes you are less regarded for getting a "B" in an honors class as opposed to an "A" in a regular class. The bottom line is that she'll get a lot more out of a class that she enjoys. Julie

  5. @Peggy - My husband said maybe that's just the curriculum that they get from the state or on a national level. Given the inconsistency I've seen in teaching over the years with kids in different grades, I don't think so. And there's no excuse for making a book, that would be tolerable if just read, completely horrible if you have to follow a strict format for note-taking. Way to punish the honors students.

    @Julie - I'm so happy the counselor did it right away. They only get a 0.5 pump in the GPA for Honors classes. I'm not sure if she will enjoy the regular English class since there will likely be a lot of grammar in it, but hopefully she will feel very competent.