Young Adult Lit/Crit

April 7, 2008

The End

Filed under: Adolescent Readers/Reading — Mandy @ 9:43 pm

After the book club and literature circle discussions last week, an important question was raised, that I have been contemplating ever since. In my group we wondered how should books for adolescents end? Alison brought the book CRANK to class, which she had read, and the end was very disturbing. The narrator basically says that she is planning a school shooting, and BOOM the story ends. Although we want to talk about these important issues, what happens when kids read books that have endings like this? Sure, some readers may be objective and read stories to understand why things happen, like school shootings. But what happens if other students read these books to learn about inappropriate things? What if this was their plan all along? I remember at my host school last semester, there was a student reading a biography on Charles Manson, and while his story is eerily interesting, I was slightly disturbed. I don’t want to be judgmental, but is there a line that shouldn’t be crossed? Do we have the authority to tell students that they cannot read certain things in our class? Should we ever be suspicious? These are some issues I am thinking about this week, because I want to be prepared for these controversial situations. I would love for others to respond to this, especially practicing teachers. What would you do or what have you done?

-Mandy

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4 Comments »

  1. Mandy,

    You bring up a valid and controversial point. I remember after the Columbine shootings, many blamed Marilyn Manson’s explicit lyrics for the motivation to the students’ violent acts. But to what extent can we put responsibility for someone’s actions on printed words? These words may heighten awareness, conjure up curiosity and questions, but I like to believe most teenagers know better than to follow the words of fiction. Curiosities and unfamiliar territory are reasons why teachers need to use various resources and teaching methods for the critical analysis of books and themes. This leads me to my next point: knowing your students. Once a teacher builds a relationship and solid understanding of his/her students’ interests, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, he/she is able to gauge which books and subjects are appropriate for each student. With this information, students will find some reading outside of their comfort zones, but most likely not pushing them over the edge.

    ~Jessica

    Comment by jexter1 — April 7, 2008 @ 11:38 pm

  2. Mandy,

    You’ve brought up a great thread of discussion.

    I’d like to pause and recollect…

    When I was in high school there was a boy in my organic chemistry class that suddenly dyed his hair black. It didn’t look very good on him, and gave him a kind of “edge” that soon wrapped itself in a black trenchcoat.

    He was very smart.

    Top of the orgo class.

    One day he brought to school Helter Skelter
    http://www.amazon.com/o/ASIN/039308700X/002-0559495-1961664?SubscriptionId=11NRD61HE570TCSR99R2
    and then proceeded to turn in a book report for Language Arts on it, and then submitted a different project for history on serial killers.

    Why was this guy so interested in this stuff, I thought. I suspected something had happened to him that made him want to project an interest in violence. It made him appear scarey. I thought that’s what he wanted: to be feared and left alone.

    Now I’m completely re-evaluating my reactions as a teenager. Was he looking for help?

    Jess, I think you make a good point when you say that we have to KNOW our students to be able to interpret their motives.

    It makes me want to look him up, and write him a letter, and ask him how he feels. And offer him support, or friendship. When back then, I thought it was pretty obvious that he didn’t want any of that.

    This memory suddenly is taking on a different sound track. Rather than a harsh, angry yelling track- it’s a somber ballad of rejection and isolation. It’s sung by an ematiated victim, rather than a long-haired bat-eating rocker.

    But this is still an approximation. It’s hard to tell what he was thinking.

    Communication: the great puzzle piece. So how do we approach a student like my classmate, what do we say to her/him? How do we start the conversation?

    Joyce

    Comment by Joyce — April 8, 2008 @ 11:04 am

  3. Thoughtful responses here.

    I think you’re right, Jess. We need to know our students. During a professional development session last year, a speaker reminded us that the key to good real estate is “Location. Location. Location.” The key to good teaching, he said, is “Relationships. Relationships. Relationships.” I also think of something my cooperating teacher told me when I student taught. She said, “You have to like ALL your students. You might connect more with some than others, but you HAVE to LIKE them ALL.” I’ve really held on to this, and I think it’s served me and my students well.

    With that said, how do we achieve a relationship with all our students? Especially when we see them for 45 minute each day? How do we reach those who appear as if they don’t want to be reached? I realize Joyce posed these questions, as well. I’m going to try to answer…

    This may sound overly simple, but talk to them. Just talk. Say, “Hey. How’s it going? What’d you do this weekend? Reading anything interesting?” I guess it sounds cheesy, but (a) I am kind of cheesy and (b) it’s still starting a conversation. If he’s reading about serial killers. I would ask how he got interested in the topic. I might talk about The Silence of the Lambs. I don’t know. I’d try to reach him through his interests. In the case of your classmate, Joyce, I’d want to talk with other teachers, guidance counselors, administrators and make sure that other people are aware of the sudden change in appearance and interest in Charles Manson.

    -Sarah

    Comment by sostrom — April 9, 2008 @ 8:57 am

  4. I’m glad this book has brought up such an important discussion.

    Jess, I want to address something you said. You hit the nail on the head- “This leads me to my next point: knowing your students. Once a teacher builds a relationship and solid understanding of his/her students’ interests, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, he/she is able to gauge which books and subjects are appropriate for each student. With this information, students will find some reading outside of their comfort zones, but most likely not pushing them over the edge.”

    When I brought this book to the attention of the TA of this boy, he was very appreciative. He knows the students better than most, and would not let such an important red light go unnoticed. He planned to have a meeting with the other teachers, which brings me to another point that we can learn from- communicating with other teachers. It seems so essential to work as a team in any school setting. Kids see more than one teacher a day, and sometimes it takes all of the teachers to grasp the “larger picture” on each kid. Students are dynamic- they act differently in different settings. Johnny in math class may be very different from Johnny in English class. Communication is key.

    One of the things that bugged me about this whole incident is that this student asked several of the TAs and other adults to read the book. To my knowledge, I, the sub, was the only one who read it. I’m not saying that teachers should read every book that a student hands to them, but in the case of students who have behavioral problems, it seems like we should be keeping up with them.

    Thoughts?

    Allison

    Comment by allison — April 9, 2008 @ 9:55 am


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