Thursday, January 05, 2012

Day #70

Had fun teaching today for the first time in a while. I gave a small test on Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery," which we read this week. We talked a bit about tradition and ritual and human sacrifice, and it was hard to get the kids to go as deep into the story as I would have liked because they're in middle school and they've not lived enough to really get its theme; actually, that's bullshit. I wouldn't have spent three days on it if I truly thought that. Some kids made potent connections to The Hunger Games, some thought of our work with the Holocaust last fall. Some asked serious questions about what motivates people, because the idea of a village doing something like The Lottery isn't really that shocking--and that's what makes the story shocking.

Before I gave the test I showed a fun 1969 film done by the Britannica folks. I'd been thinking the kids didn't give a shit about the story, that they hadn't "got" it, and yet they knew each character as they showed up, and often yelled out the dialogue in advance. Old Man Warner was a hit on screen, just as he was in print: "Crazy damn fools!"

After the vid I put a desk in the center of the front of the room and I put a big black box on the desk. I called each kid up by their last name and gave out the test from inside the box. The kids were somber at first and then started shouting dialogue or calling each other "Tessie" or "Mr. Summers" or "Davy."

After the test I called them up again and made them draw a slip of paper from the box. Jon got the black dot first period, and he tried to hide under a table as we all pelted him with paper ball rocks. It was a birthday present for him. 2nd period Gasbag got it. He sprawled face down on the center table in my room as the kids beaned him with paper wads. At one point my principal came in to check out the reason for the cacophony, but when she realized it was sanctioned somehow she let it go.


Anonymous said...

Excellent! I just re-read it myself, as part of a huge omnibus of dystopian fiction. By the way, I also checked out Stevenson U's copy of Leap into Darkness because of your post--and their copy is signed by Bretholz!


Nyarlathotep said...

Yay for Bretholz. Holocaust memoirs are always exceptional because surviving that event is miraculous, but Bretholz's book really blew me away. Let me know what you think.

I'm a criminal for not seeing you guys in so long. Do y'all play Settlers of Catan?

Earth Dragon said...

I believe it was the notorious pirate, Blackbeard, who used to kill a crew member, at random, now and again, just to keep everyone else on their toes.

Reading about your kids re-enacting The Lottery made me wonder how this part of their education might resurface on the street.

I'm also curious if, even though it was a bit of fun, any of them were disturbed by the exercise, since, apparently, they all willingly played along.