Monday, September 3, 2012

OF ALL THE MOTHERS: or, why we need Planned Parenthood

Johnny Wheelwright's mother, at least according to Owen Meany, has "THE BEST BREASTS OF ALL THE MOTHERS." 
Yes, I have finished A Prayer For Owen Meany, and am still befuddled in its wake. A fabulous read? Yes. An incredibly-intricate world crafted in 637 pages? Yes. A bit off-putting, ambiguous, and unimaginatively-written for women? YES.
Finding myself unable to parse out all the sentiments, I launched pretty much immediately into The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett. (Yes, a rebound book.) Other than an uncanny presence of God similar to Meany, it bears little resemblance. 
It takes place at a home for unwed mothers in Kentucky, and is really a very lovely character study of a leaving woman, an intuitive nun, and a man so achingly real and good he can carry hope on his broad shoulders. Puffs on the inside cover echo a similar sentiment - they say the book is a success because it propels itself even with an unidentifiable protagonist. I'm not sure if I agree. I think they mean that Rose, the woman who cannot stay, is not the woman we wish to be. At no point, however, was I unable to identify with her. Would I have made the same choices? No. But I think it is short-sighted to write that her choices are totally inscrutable. What do you think?
Next up is The Scalpel and the Silver Bear. It too has borne its criticisms, but I'm excited!
Also, last week, my housemate and I went to our first Zuni book group meeting and discussed Ms. Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children. (I guess my themes have been Home, God, and Strange Kids.) It was a delightful time of delicious food and good conversation. It was also nice to be known as a doula first, then an English teacher.

At any rate, reading Patchett's book made me wonder if there are still homes for unwed mothers in the country. 
My subsequent rage was the impetus for this entry.
Oh yes, there are still homes for unwed mothers, and I'm sure many of them are lovely places of prayer and reflection for girls on the cusp of adoption or motherhood. What, of course, was the majority of the facade was the retchingly self-righteous Anti-Choice rhetoric. I am afraid, and I am nearly certain, that girls are being coerced into certain options because it is the Only Christian Thing to Do. I could not find ONE home or shelter or center that treated pregnant women with the respect and autonomy they deserve. They would go to the home not because they had thought long and hard, come to the decision that is right for them and their body at the time, and wanted a place of further reflection and parenting instruction. No no, they purportedly go because it is the Right, Good, Blessed thing to do. 
But then, of course, the other side can be just as condemnatory. An article on Jezebel, which I am frequently interested in and impressed by, has an article that is not much more than trashing the Catholic church. Now, have they - and many other denominations - been responsible for a lot of coercion in the name of Good? Yes. But by no means is that a reason to condemn an entire church - especially using such self-righteous rhetoric. Ah, there it is again.
You see, we cannot be left with these polarized options:

THIS is why we need Planned Parenthood. 
A sample screenshot from their website:

HERE is a place women are treated - or, at least, purportedly treated - with honesty, dignity, autonomy, and respect.
As you can imagine, I called PP (they were obviously closed for Labor Day), mostly congratulating them for their work but also inquiring what kind of "training" the staff goes through. I want to get on that bandwagon!
Anyway, moving on --

Oh, right! I've also taught three weeks. What do you know?
I'm a little tuckered out from my self-righteous rhetoric, but I'd like to send two thumbs-up to the interwebs. 
Teaching has been going wonderfully. Of course there are the frustrations, and the hiccups, and the massive amounts of work, but I am learning to intuit the timing of a lesson, the ethos of a classroom, and the shaping of a unit. Huzzah!

ENG 11: My juniors are a fab bunch this year. The first week was focused on diagnostics, so I did a writing (AP), grammar (ACT), and reading (Gates) tester and tracked the results. My students are, on average, three years behind. 
This made a natural segue to examining the reading data and launching on their independent reading program. I can't tell you how peaceful it is to begin every class with 10 minutes of reading, or already have talked more about independent reading (hey hey, there's some autonomy and respect!) this year than in the entirety of last. Also, we've been focusing on exploration narratives and the cultural biases of writers. These last couple of days, in addition to workshopping a second draft of our "Avatar" essays, we've been studying William Bradford, a segment of 1491, and an "As I Please" editorial by Orwell. We then have been analyzing the unreliability of history, and how Power creates Discourse. 
It was successful in all classes, and WILDLY successful in 2nd hour. 
This coming week, I'm excited to tackle les Puritans, and study in turn how their cultural values are reflected in their art.

DRAMA: Oh, Gosh, what fun.
We've been doing our introductory unit on "How to Read a Script" and what performance is, and all of that. So, we performed Beckett's "Play" twice. They did it once, then received notes, re-imagined characters, rehearsed rehearsed, watched a professional version and then performed again. Additionally, we learned the basics of drama warm-ups, method acting, and script analysis. We're finishing up our history of theatre presentations / activities (which have informative and a hoot!) tomorrow, and then onto the Greeks!

AP LITERATURE: We're fast into Boot Camp with my AP Lit critters, and they have been keeping up! Boot Camp entails tackling one element at a time (Characterization, Setting, now onto POV this week) and working deeply with two short stories and two one-page essays a week. As we've studied "My Lucy Friend Who Smells Like Corn," "Miss Brill," "Araby," and "Blue Winds Dancing," I've also woven in related Catcher in the Rye activities a couple of times a week: paragraph on Jane Gallagher, timeline, symbolic impact of setting on events, central images, etc. This, topped off with a classic independent reading program and a once-weekly in-class AP essay write, make it a tough but worthwhile class. We'll see what they make of "The Yellow Wallpaper."

CHEER: Like all things, is much easier this year. Our housemate and fellow teacher Ms. Skalican is helping out with mounts and jumps and tumbling, so my girls are excited and making A-frames! Woot! I'm also capable of teaching the cheers, and we've got some good new blood. 
When working concession on Saturday, we made 500 dollars. We'll see if we can't get those new uniforms / enough uniforms / attend the playoffs.

I have to hop off to grade "Avatar" essays, book reviews, and in-class essays analyzing the connection of setting and self in Mary Oliver's "Crossing the Swamp," but do know that our little garden is chugging along. Pictures soon of our hand-length yellow squash, orange pumpkins, little ears of corn, burgeoning burgundy beans, two-fist cabbage, big sandia peppers, and ripening tomatoes. Yum!

Over and out, and happy Labor Day!