English Teachers: Who Are They?

English Teachers: Who Are They?
Posted on 09/17/2021
Ms. RuttEnglish Teachers: Who Are They? Hobbled by Endless Essay Grading or Motivated by Student’s Hesitant Interest in King Lear
Alexis Stakem
Staff Writer
[email protected]

English class, the thing single-handedly keeping LitCharts in business. Students either love or hate the class, and even those who would say they love it are developing glabellar lines trying to discern what about Nick and Gatsby’s relationship is platonic.

Anyway, you get the gist, the class is controversial, but that’s old news. You know the perspective the students are dying to hear is that of the English teachers. What do English teachers think about their current curriculum? Is there any reward to be found in reading one hundred essays that all virtually say the same thing?

Do they know their students are using LitCharts because deciphering whatever gibberish Shakespeare wrote down seems like a lot? Well, you’re welcome, because I have taken the time to interview a few of them to see what they think of their students, careers, and more.

Reading is one of the most contentious aspects of English, so it begs the question which books the teachers love teaching.

“I love teaching King Lear, in large part because students really struggle with Shakespeare, as I remember struggling myself in high school, and I just like breaking it down to the point where it becomes more understandable and watching the light bulbs go off,” AP Literature & Composition and World Literature teacher Mrs. Karin Rutt-Houser said.

“The Great Gatsby is my favorite to teach, the theme of the American dream and having a goal that is just out of reach resonates with students, and really everyone. It is really sort of a timeless idea,” AP English Language & Composition and World Literature teacher Mrs. Rachele Dominick said.

As mentioned before, reading is one of the controversial aspects of English, with many students turning to sites like LitCharts and Sparknotes to get the skinny on the farm animals seizing the means of production in Animal Farm, and to understand the symbolism behind an old man’s chaotic fishing adventure. I asked the teachers about their opinion on students over reliance on LitCharts, a comment, which I’ll tell you, got a laugh from all three.

“I think the common misconception for students is that they think: ‘I am not going to get it anyway, so I am just going to read it to say I read it, and as for comprehension and analytical purposes I can look to so many online sources and have someone think for me.’ Which is a very slippery slope, allowing someone to think for you,” AP Literature & Composition and American & World Literature teacher Mrs. Melissa Blacksmith said.

On a similar note, there were other misconceptions regarding the usefulness of English skills teachers wanted to clear up.

“I would say note-taking and annotating are important skills, especially for college, and those are things that I am really going to be stressing this year. Also just revising writing, so many times students put off assignments for a little too long. Then they don’t have time to go back and revise, or they think: ‘I did it; it’s done, I’m handing it in, and I don’t want to think about it anymore. It is what it is.’ But I think these are skills that are most beneficial for the real world and college,” Rutt-Houser said.

“I think note-taking and annotating train the brain to focus on important things. When we read, it’s ‘What is the message here? What is the author trying to tell me? What am I going to do with this information?’ I think, when you read something it should incite you to continue to research and look beyond one piece of literature. Reading should lead you to seek out more answers. In today’s world, we tend to blindly accept, to a degree, some of the answers we’re given. The hope is through taking notes and dissecting literature, we can help students develop the skills to conduct their own research, form their own opinions, and think critically about the world around them,” Blacksmith said.

While attempting to shape their students' critical thinking skills, English teachers also must face the growing epidemic of grading over one hundred papers all with the same point (a belief of my own- most of them insisted that there was variation amongst the essays).

“Oftentimes, I will put essays in groups of five and alternate them in piles, so that I can feel like I’m getting somewhere because they do take some time to grade. In fact, a major essay could take me twenty minutes to grade, so it feels like a little reward every time I complete a pile. ‘I got through another pile of five! I got through another pile of five!’” Rutt-Houser said.

“I’ve always been good with managing the workload. I usually create a schedule for myself that lays out how many essays I’m going to grade per day for this amount of days,” Dominick said.

“Honestly, I take a rather haphazard approach, I get the pile ready and just start reading. If I can read it twice, great; if I don’t have the time then it’s just one read through. Usually it helps to read it first and make sure they really understood the piece of literature, and then go in and see ‘How deep did they dig?’” Blacksmith said.

English teachers (teachers in general, really) are doing a lot to make sure when you hit the ground running at college or in the real world, you don’t trip over your untied shoelaces (which, and don’t even attempt to front, you didn't know were untied), so please, for your own sake, learn how to annotate.

Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2024 SchoolMessenger Corporation. All rights reserved.