Friday, April 25, 2008

Prompts My Colleague Gave Me

My beloved colleague, K, gave me a list of prompts to write on, as he is, in fact, an English teacher. English teachers love prompts, though, to be truthful, we have to write rather boring ones for our students. For example, on a test I might give my students this prompt: "In a well-crafted, five-paragraph essay, explain the symbolism of the rose bush by the prison door in The Scarlet Letter." Worse are prompts that they encounter on standardized tests. Yesterday, my department and I graded a standardized test that had been created by a testing company. The paragraph we graded was written in response to this prompt (please note, I am not kidding): "If the plant in the poem could think and speak, would it realate to the speaker?"

My students and I are now reading Cannery Row. Now, you'd think that a book as sexy, life-embracing, and party-promoting as Cannery Row could generate sexy and life-embracing topics to dwell upon, however, since as a public-school teacher it seems that we cannot by law point out to minors that people in literature have fun, or experience joy or pleasure, we have to ask them questions like, "How is Dora transformed symbolically by the party at the climax of the novel?" when I think it would be better for them to wonder, "When you grow up would you rather be one of the people in the novel who destroy themselves through averice and ambition, or would you rather find redemption in pleasure, like the inhabitants of Cannery Row?" Now that's something to think about. However, I would get parents calling my principal, saying that I'm promoting a lax and inefficient lifestyle. It might out me as a bohemian.

But K's prompts for me are different. Perhaps because he gets to teach creative writing, lucky, lucky man.

No comments: