Academic Analysis

Academic Analysis

Isabella Ambrose, Writer/Designer

English class. The name strikes fear into the souls of high school students. Reading? For a grade? The very idea of it is absurd to most. But what’s the reason for this, and how does English class look from an English teacher’s perspective?

So why exactly do students dislike English class? The reason varies between students. For some students, they have no reason at all. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes. For others, however, their disregard for English may be due to struggles with comprehension of literature. One student here at Homestead says that they are “more ‘left brained’” and “prefer doing math puzzles over reading, which requires more creativity and intuition.” They state that their “relationship with reading isn’t the best” and they have “never been that interested in it.” While left brain versus right brain is just a theory, it is important to note that some students have harder times understanding literature than others. Seems like a perfectly valid reason to dislike reading to me.

Ms. Rauber teaches English 9 for academic and honors classes at Homestead. Like all 9th grade students, her academic classes read To Kill a Mockingbird, Romeo and Juliet, and Lord of the Flies while her honors classes read The Odyssey, Romeo and Juliet, Pride and Prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Great Expectations. For most of you reading this, these titles will sound very familiar, and they might even bring back the horror of creating lists of annotations for your first-ever essays. When asked about what book students dislike the most, Rauber says “The Odyssey because it is an epic poem” although “the kids who are into mythology really like it.” In my opinion, this is not exactly true (I’m an avid mythology lover). I digress. When it comes to which books students like the most, Rauber cannot say because opinions vary greatly between students. Two students, Carolyn Kenefic (10) and Lilly Hahn (10), both said that their favorite book in 9th grade was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. In terms of genre, Rauber says “most students enjoy drama because they get to read it with their classmates and have the enjoyment of acting and reading together.” However, Rauber makes a point to note that “in high school we focus exclusively on literature in class and not what publishers and bookstores would call genre literature, like thrillers, fantasy, or historical fiction.” Last but not least, Rauber says that if she
could only take one book with her to a deserted island, she would choose Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare because “the layers and complexity offer new understanding every time I read it.”

Mr. Beer teaches Honors English 10 and Travel Writing. Beer’s Honor English class
reads Macbeth, Frankenstein, Jane Eyre, The Scarlet Letter, The Great Gatsby, Death of a Salesman, and A Raisin in the Sun. For his Travel Writing class, Beer’s students read A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson and Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark. His favorite book is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Beer says, “I’ve read it at least ten times and each year I look forward to re-reading it with the students. It gets better each time.” Beer says that “for Honors English 10, students seem to enjoy The Great Gatsby and Jane Eyre the most, with Frankenstein or Death of a Salesman coming up behind those.” Makayla Henline (11) says that her favorite book as a sophomore was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. This book is a personal favorite of mine, too. For the least-liked book, Beer says “either Macbeth or The Scarlet Letter. Macbeth is largely because of the difficulty, though.” Oftentimes, students get anxious when given a book with more than 200 pages, so I turned to Beer for some explanation. He says, “Jane Eyre is our longest book and there are often grunts and grimaces when I first pass it out… while length of the book may be an indicator of enjoyment for high school students in general, I wouldn’t say it plays out that way in Honors English 10.” Rauber says the same thing about English 9, too. She does not think there is a correlation between the length of the book and how much it is liked, but she does “think some students get…big book fear.” Reading books that get increasingly larger can help overcome this
fear. Rauber offers some unexpected advice, too: “A book is like a life; if it is a good one, then length is an advantage to all involved.”

While English may not be especially well liked, the class still offers a little something for everyone, whether that is writing, reading, or sleeping (yes, I know you’re falling asleep in the back of the room. It’s pretty obvious). If you can, try to enjoy English as much as possible because we all know you probably won’t read another book when you’re done with school.