Today I started teaching Catcher in the Rye to my freshmen. I'm really excited to teach this book because it's one of my favorites and I've read it over and over and over again. I started reading it yet again the other night and was pleased to see that it really holds up (so often, books I read as a teenager just aren't quite what I remember them to be when I go back!). It was also fun to re-read it as a teacher...I kept thinking of students I've had in my past who, like Holden, are bright and capable, but just not motivated. I was also thinking of how different it will be to teach this book at my school, where students are SO motivated by points and grades and 100% of them are college-bound. It makes me wish I had had the chance to teach it at Kamiak where I think it might ring more true for the students.
Anyway, to preview the book, I gave my freshmen this prompt and 15 minutes to write about it: Christmas vacation is a few days away. Instead of leaving the private boarding school you attend for two weeks, you will be leaving for good because you are failing every subject except English, and you have been kicked out. What thoughts are going through your mind on your last night in your dorm at school?
In addition to this, your parents aren’t expecting you home for 3 or 4 days because they don’t know you’ve been kicked out, and you have about $400. Knowing expensive Christmas presents will probably not smooth things over, what will you do with your extra time and money?
Some of the responses were so Korean, I just had to share (complete with the original sentence fluency and word choice)! One student said, "If all those things happen to me, I would feel so sorry for my parents because they did so much to support me. I would wonder why my life is always like this. Since failing every subjects is not ordinary, I would think over and over again to find the reason for my failure. I would not even want to talk with my friends their help would not really make me feel better." Look at that Confucianism in action!
My favorite one is, "I would feel bad that I was failing most of my subjects. I know that the school won't help me anymore during the several days I am alone, I would probably do one on one lessons for as much as I can afford. Since I get much more attention and direct help, I can learn more in a faster way. Eventually I get to learn more that my parents would not be so mad when they see my grades have gone up from Fs in the previous to as least some Cs when I go back to school. I could argue that I wasn't getting much attention from the teachers in my boarding school so I thought it was a waste of time. Basically I would tell them that the tutoring worked much better for me." That's right, he would spend his time going to a hagwon after flunking out of school! And the funniest part is that I think he really means it! I have a hard time imagining too many of my American students saying the same thing if given the same scenario.