I used to hate the night of the first day of school. I loved hearing about the first day details, new teachers, old and new friends…but The Forms nearly did me in. A whole packet for each kid filled with multi-colored papers, many of which asked for the very same information—so many emergency numbers, medical forms etc. All necessary things, of course, but when we have the technology we carry in our pockets and purses, I could never understand why I was filling out the same information every year in pen.
But I digress. My feelings about the night of the first day of school changed once the kids hit high school. For whatever reason, the forms were less cumbersome, almost nonexistent; instead, I have to read and sign syllabi. I truly enjoy reading all the safety protocols for chemistry and the variations on what will happen if you hand in work late or violate the school’s “academic honesty” code. But I confess, my favorite syllabus to read is always English. The English major in me is always curious to see….
Our kids are five years apart in school. Darling Daughter has the very same Sophomore Honors English teacher #1 Son had five years ago. I remember signing the syllabus five years ago and thinking how different the reading list was than the one for my Sophomore English class. I had an exchange teacher from Oxford, England my sophomore year. We read Shakespeare, Eliot, Dickens, Chaucer, Milton—and I read Jane Austen on the side. I can’t remember now all of what #1 Son read, but the list was different enough that I remember noticing. The list did not startle in its difference, however, as it did this year.
I was practically cheering there on the couch in the living room Tuesday night. I want my kids to read lots of Shakespeare, Chaucer. Milton, Dickens, Eliot and Austen, to be sure. But we are living in a rapidly changing world and there are some books on Darling Daughter’s syllabus that I am positively thrilled to see. This English major’s heart did a little pitty-pat as I signed that syllabus and wrote a quick note of gladness to the teacher, as well.
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, and Night by Elie Wiesel—both German authors; Purple Hibiscus, a novel written by the Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie; The Kite Runner by Afghan-American Khaled Hosseini; Neither Wolf Nor Dog by Kent Nerburn, a Minnesota author recognized as one of the very few authors who can respectfully bridge the gap between Native and non-Native cultures; Persepolis by Iranian-born French graphic novelist Marjane Satrapi; and The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by (one of the men named) Wes Moore.
What A List! And they’ll be talking about sign and symbol, archetypes, allusions, and motifs! (Pitter-pat, pitter-pat…) And many other things as well, I’m guessing.
Darling Daughter said, “I don’t know any of these books….” And I said, grandly gesturing at the bookcase, “We have most of them and I will get the others. I’ve read many, but not all. Can’t wait!”
Maybe I was a little too excited… I’ll try not to read ahead at least. I’ll gladly homeschool the Austen and Eliot, Shakespeare and Chaucer, Milton and Dickens. Times are changing and books are an important part of how we learn about the experiences of others. Huzzah to our teachers who respond with new challenging texts that reflect the world in which our kids are living.