It’s April! Tulips bloom; birds sing; trees bud. It also means it’s time to dig out the spring and summer clothes. The other day I pulled out my short-sleeved shirts from storage and replaced the bin with my winter sweaters. Pushing my winter pieces to the back of the closet and moving the spring pieces forward is an annual tradition that I enjoy.
In a month, classes will be over and final exams will begin. The weekend of “end-of-the-year” festivities will begin—Prom, Baccalaureate, Class Night, and Commencement. Last year, each of these events filled me with mixed emotions. I watched as my oldest participated in these rites of passage, marking the transition from high school to college. In two weeks, he will be home for the summer—a year of college under his belt. The passing of time continues.
I’ve admitted on the pages of this blog before that I often “discover” popular television shows after the rest of the world. For instance, I finally finished watching Gilmore Girls earlier this year on Netflix. Of course, many of you watched the show years ago. My latest show is Parenthood. OMG! Finally, a television show that depicts the roller coaster ride of parenting teenagers! But this isn’t just a show for parents of teenagers. It’s so much more than that. We all have families. And we all experience the joys, challenges, and dysfunctions of our family units. Parenthood captures this dynamic in an honest and humorous manner. Just like a good book reminds you that you are not alone, a well-written TV show does the same. Definitely worth watching!
On memorization and diminishing brain cells: Last week I “performed” my declamation piece for my students (a scene from To Kill a Mockingbird). For some crazy reason, I told my students that this year I would memorize a piece and present it in class. This is a major assignment each year for all Stony Brook students. For many of my seventh graders, this is the first time they have done something of this nature. Standing in front of their peers, each student presents a 4-5 minute piece that has been approved by me. Selections fall into one of three categories: drama, humor, and oration. The best students go on to compete in a contest.
I wanted my students to see that I identified with them in this assignment, which is why I said I would do this crazy thing in the first place. Let me tell you, the brain cells don’t memorize as quickly as they used to. I “mastered” the first minute or so, but after that, the lines all ran together. I pushed back my “presentation” several times, but finally, last Monday, I said my piece. Afterwards, I let the students give me feedback. Some of them even made rubrics like the ones I use to grade them. They may have been a tad harsh in places, but they identified quite accurately the areas of strength and weakness in my performance. I wish I had done better. I used to ignore the articles in magazines about the importance of memorization as a person ages. I don’t think I will skip over those articles so quickly in the future.
Finally, April means rereading and teaching To Kill a Mockingbird. Each time I read the book, I discover a new turn of phrase or find myself laughing or appreciating a different scene. This year is no exception. Last year at this time, the world waited for the July release of Go Set a Watchman. We had no way of knowing that Harper Lee would not be with us for much longer. Good literature is a gift. It seeps into our bones and changes us. When we read, we have an opportunity to examine life through the eyes of the characters. As I head into the final chapters of TKAM with my students, I can’t wait to watch their faces and see their reactions as they read Scout’s words, “Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?” in the final chapter. Their faces will light up and they will start talking all at once. Connections will be made and the power of literature will leave its mark. Truth, beauty, and goodness at its finest.