Dear Students and Families,

Welcome back to The Beacon School for the start of the 2013-14 school year and welcome to Blackboarddreams.com!  I am very excited to give e-life to a vision born a year or so ago.  Then, I envisioned using the web as a meaningful extension of my classroom where there would be resources aplenty and a communication hub.  After a summer of trial and many an error, here it is–our e-home away from home, Blackboarddreams!  Here, you and your family can access the following: homework assignments, updates on the happenings and direction of the class, complementary materials, writing and research resources, exemplars, a link back to the Beacon homepage, and so much more!  I am most excited about using this website as our e-community built on the Goodreads groups and the Blackboarddreams forums. We will use the Goodreads groups to examine author’s craft in search of a deeper understanding of the readings and to use those readings as a catalyst for critical discussion of our world and ourselves.

The beginning of the new school year fills me with excitement as I see the potential in all of you to achieve great things this year; so we will simply shoot for greatness!  I thought I would take some time and words to give you a sense of what to expect this year.   My classroom is a place where literature, vocabulary, and grammar/style instruction are seamlessly integrated into the curriculum.  It is a place where my students understand that great writing must be not only clear and concise, but also purposeful, powerful, and elegant.  To this end, writing and its instruction are conscious and deliberate processes rooted in close examination of student writing as well as the writing of the greats whom we read throughout the year.  As the year progresses you will have control/mastery over the content, style and mechanics of your essay.  You will be expected to pay as much attention to the nuances of writing (i.e. diction, syntax) as the argument.  Don’t fret; I will teach you to that end.

Moving along… Literature instruction and discussion would satisfy both Nabokov and Vonnegut as my students and I embrace didactic and aesthetic approaches to literature.  I hope to help you appreciate literature as a microcosm of life that facilitates discovery and fosters empathy.  I aim to have you inhale the experience of each novel, poem, and short story.  I want you to “hold [your] breath with the characters and become involved in their destiny” as we search for meaning in literature, in self, and in the world (Nafisi).  This literary approach has resulted in discussions that have accounted for some of the most inspiring and beautiful moments in my classroom.  Additionally, I also expect my students to appreciate each text as a work of art wherein the author has manipulated language, as a painter would color and stroke.  In both cases the artist aims to achieve certain effects.  We will vigorously explore the how’s and why’s as we critically and analytically deconstruct each text in search of meaning—in search of the literary effects.

While my voice and instruction are fundamentally critical to the foundation of my classroom, I stress to my students that their voices and perspectives are equally important.  As my students immerse themselves in the world of each text, they have little trouble taking ownership of the material.  For instance, one may see some of my seniors arguing that the progressive socio-theological views of Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard are devalued today in light of their respective sexist views. One might see my sophomores parody or satirize social, economic, and/or political subjects in the spirit of Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World.  As my students take ownership of the literature, they develop a sense of confidence in their ability to analyze complex literature.  So, embrace your interpretation and help us to see the text from your perspective using the text to give your argument credibility.  While you develop a sense of confidence through embracing your voice, you are also expected to work with others and appreciate the difference of opinion that often defines a humanities course.  Ultimately, the intimate relationship that my students develop with the content enables them to both thoroughly understand the content and thoroughly enjoy the learning process.

My expectations are high, yet I am always available to help my students meet those expectations. I never leave the building before five so do not hesitate to stop by if you need help.   I am also available for tutoring during lunch and regular tutoring hours.  I love what I do and I am passionate about helping my students not only succeed but also have fun and laugh along the way.   Perhaps, I take most pride in the laughter and smiles that mark the landscape of my classroom.  My students have been very successful in the most quantitative ways one measures success and I understand the importance of this measure of success, yet I also place value in the more subjective, qualitative success that is measured in laughter.  So here’s to a school year that would make Dokken proud…rockin’ like Dokken!

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