Photo by Amber Nunnery

A Ruminating English Teacher’s Account of Academic Readiness

What the hell am I teaching?

10th Grade High Frequency Standard #1: Tone & Mood

My pencil waits under the document camera. Students stare at the abundant list of tone words. I should get these laminated.

“Is Jackson’s tone positive, negative, or neutral in the middle of the story?”


Well, the suspense may give us a negative feeling, but is the diction she chooses positive, negative or neutral?”


“Exactly. Why do you think she chooses to change her tone from positive to neutral?”

…Wait time didn’t work. I’ll adjust.

“Given the shocking events in the story, what effect does her dry, neutral tone have on us as readers?”


The expectation would be: “The effect that Jackson’s neutral has on us, as readers, is the development of suspense.”

This must be what it means to be “college-ready”.

10th Grade High Frequency Standard #2: Isolated Scene Analysis

“Let’s think about the mood for this scene. Beneatha has clearly overstepped with her words and upset Lena. Lena’s stage directions are,

‘(Mama absorbs her speech, studies her daughter and rises slowly and crosses to Beneatha and slaps her powerfully across the face. After, there is only silence and the daughter drops her eyes from her mother’s face, and Mama is very tall before her.)’



“What words from the stage directions create that mood?”


I’m teaching them to run in circles.

10th Grade High Frequency Standard #3: Theme Analysis

The author most likely includes the anecdote about the bat in paragraph 9 to develop the theme of –

Their faces are tired. For most of them, this feels captive.

Friday’s Warm Up: Is standardized testing necessary for education? Does it help you? How do you feel about the test?

“We work all year, but this test decides if we ‘pass’.”

“Even when I try so hard on every passage and question, I may end up failing, and it makes me feel like I can’t do anything right.”

“We don’t even get to see what we do right or wrong.”

“I guess every year and get lucky.”

“It’s too much pressure.”

“The pressure on the teachers makes us feel even more pressure.”

“Right, like, we’re scared to ask questions.”

“Because we can’t.”

“It’s all for money. They’re just making money off of us.”

My stomach turns.

I guess teaching the idiom, “the elephant in the room” has come full circle.

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