While teaching at Lafayette High School for three years, I read and reread the limited books we had available to us. We were on block schedules, so I read each of these twice per year (in some cases, up to four times per year, if there were not enough copies for all of my classes). In ninth grade: Raisin in the Sun; Romeo and Juliet; The Yearling; The Hobbit; That Was Then, This Is Now. In eleventh grade: The Great Gatsby; To Kill a Mockingbird; The Scarlet Letter; The Crucible; Soldier’s Heart. Other books I occasionally used were Winesburg, Ohio; Common Sense; and a few others. All of my classes, whether honors or not, were required to read four to five major readings over the semester (about four months).
At Auburndale High School, where I now teach, very little outside reading is expected from the regular students. I am accepting of this new standard for now, as I am still trying to get adjusted to my new surroundings. But I think I will need to change it next year. For one thing, my regular students are not permitted to read books designated honors books, including The Scarlet Letter and To Kill a Mockingbird. Those two novels were always the most popular novels we did in my regular 11th grade classes! Here, they are only expected to do two outside readings per year. That’s the entire year, August to June!
The expectations for the Honors students, meanwhile, are actually higher than my last school. This is a good thing, which I still have to adjust to. At Lafayette, the population was smaller and less diverse (I would only have 1 gifted student per semester, and only half of the honors students would have qualified as honors students here). Therefore, I had a tendency to do very similar work in both my regular and honors classes. Honors classes simply were able to get into more in depth discussions, and were given more time to do interesting and higher-level projects and assignments.
My 10th grade Honors students this year are reading the following books (over the course of the year):
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck;
The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad;
Siddhartha by Herman Hesse;
The Stranger by Albert Camus;
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley;
and Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.
We have only finished The Good Earth so far (the longest work on the list). Students will be reading Conrad and Hesse before Christmas break comes around.
The Good Earth is an extended moral parable, not especially well written, that I do not plan to teach again. The movie, made in 1937 (I think), stars two white people as the Chinese husband and wife, Wang Lung and O-lan. They turned Wang Lung into a giggling imbecile. I am familiar with the other books on my reading list, and they are awesome. Can’t wait to get into them….