Currently, we are reading Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger; we are seven chapters into it. This is one of my favorite unit to teach: I read it aloud to the students with plenty of dramatic flair, I am really good at connecting the protagonist's experience to theirs (and with teens, if you make it about them, they are in), and using it as a tool to build their skills of analysis.
|This is the cover of their copies.|
They've taken a couple of quizzes, we've had discussions, and they have had a copy checked out to them. At this moment, the students are working on completing some analysis questions for those chapters we've read. I always preface these questions with the statement, "These are not recall questions. This story is not that hard to follow. These questions require you to think of the significance of what's happening in Holden's life."
Students nod, either to acknowledge an appreciation for their budding intelligence or because they just want me to shut up so they can figure out where they are going to get wasted this weekend.
I go to my desk to input attendance and to email my sister. Oh, and to check in on the blog.
I see the blur of a white T-shirt in my peripheral as a student approaches me. "Uh, Ms. Vance, who is Salinger."
Without shifted my eyes from the computer screen, I throw out the side of my mouth, "The author of the book."
A few minutes later, an second student asks me the same question. Much to my chagrin, I realize that students are getting stuck on question #3: "Compare and contrast Ackley and Stradlater [characters in the novel]. Why do you think Salinger has Holden interact with them?" To try to waylay further irritation, shuffled over to my podium so that I am at the center of attention and announced to the class: "J.D. Salinger is the author of the book."
A chorus of "Ohhhhhhh"s fills the room. I smile, give them a curt nod, and return to my computer.
One young lady, who is very pretty and therefore very popular and therefore, therefore hasn't seen the need to develop her brain says, "Oh my God, this is a biography?"
I peer from around my computer screen, "No, honey. Make-believe stories are written by humans too."
She blinks at me, and then to save face, flicks her hair back. I think two boys who sit across the room from her swoon. Fluttering her beautiful green eyes to the ceiling, she says knowingly, "Oh, so then he's one of the characters. But, which chapter was he in?"
Holy shit. And it's only 2nd period. I have two more periods of seniors ahead of me.
For 3rd period, I decide to nip this in the bud. As soon as I pass out the questions, I tell the class to look at question #3 and then say, "Salinger is the author of the book. I just wanted to make sure you all knew that before ten of you ask me and I flip out because several people last period asked me who he was."
This time, I get a chorus of, "Who doesn't know that? What dumb-asses [I think the exact word they use is 'fuck-tards' but I find that really offensive and dumb-ass means the same thing]," but then I notice a few of their classmates studying the cover of Catcher, as their shoulders roll forward, they hunker down a bit, and then glance up nervously to see if anyone else noticed that they were one of those "dumb-asses."