Just do it

Just do it. Everyone has heard this  saying coined by athletic gear juggernaut NIKE. However, have you ever really thought about Nike in your classroom? (I mean besides your students’ shoes that is.) Well, if you haven’t, check out this video that was highlighted on the English Companion Ning (I’ve mentioned it before).

I just really, really enjoy this video. And not just for the literary value (how can one not like Hughes’ work anyway?), but for the contemporary “spin” to connect to one of our country’s biggest marketing sports’ slogans there is…which ultimately leads to an intricate web of connections in the traditional/contemporary English classroom (I think at least).

I think this video resonates with me right now for two main reasons: I read a blurb from When Kids Can’t Read and thinking back to my Harlem Renaissance literature class. Now the first reason…

See, I think Beers makes a good point in that too often we have the “just do it” mentality towards education. As she says, “…you can’t say, ‘Just do it.’ Instead, we must show students how to do it” (Chap. 4, pg. 41). I feel too often (or at least from my observations of some teachers and my many years of being a student myself) that we get into the cycle of “just do it.” This can mean just do what you have to to pass the test. Just do what you have to to get to the next grade. You get the idea here. Thus, I think an imperative concept to keep in the back of my head is always remember to show my students how.

And as for the second point. Well, I didn’t take the Harlem literature course until my first semester in graduate school. All of the sudden I was confronted with a very sad realization:  I had been jipped! I actually was quite angry. Here, I was just now being introduced to many talented authors and works that I had never even heard of. And not just that, but the angry part factored in when I thought back to my secondary English classes and realized that I had never been given (or shown) the opportunity to explore the works of Cullen, Hurston, Toomer, etc. We mentioned this in my class. My professor bluntly said that a teacher’s “book choice” says a lot about his/her character, beliefs, and so on. And then if you introduce African American literature into your classroom, people begin to question why not American Indian literature, why not…and unfortunately (in her experience), besides “specialized” college courses (like the one she taught), many times “color” was left out of the literature classroom.

Regardless the reason, even if it means teaching a “different” Shakespearian play (such as Othello) or introducing students to the worldful world of Paradise Lost, I want to make sure that if I’m helping teach my students how to read and comprehend some of the great literary heros of all time, I also want to show them the wonderful world of literature that is truly out there.

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