Melinda, the protagonist in Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, is certainly dealing with real alienation among her peers and angst over how to proceed with her high school life. What makes this character different is that she is not imagining alienation: there is real alienation happening. It is interesting to look at what this traumatic event, rape, coupled with peer avoidance and outright alienation can really do to a young woman through reading this book. She describes being alienated, “I close my eyes, this is what I’ve been dreading. As we leave the last stop, I am the only person sitting alone” (p. 3). She is very aware of her surroundings, and the angst is seen because she has been dreading that she would be isolated on the bus all summer.
Unfortunately, Melinda has been angst ridden since the party happened before the author allows us into her perspective.
Not only does Melinda experience alienation from her peers, but also she feels so has changed so rapidly that she is foreign to herself. “My room belongs to an alien. It is a postcard of who I was in the fifth grade. It is a demented phase when I thought that roses should cover everything and pink was a great color” (p. 15). I remember thinking to myself at the start of high school that it was crucial to change my room from cloud paintings on the wall to a deep merlot color with blue accents; my room no longer represented who I was. My process was slow and gradual over a few years. It was quite different for Melinda; she quickly transformed to a different person when she was raped.
Additionally, she feels alienated from her parents after the rape. She states, “How can I talk to them about that night? How can I start?” (p.72) I feel that having something to say and not knowing how would be completely heart breaking for anyone, especially a young girl in need of support of her family.
There does seem to be a ray of sunshine in all of this. Yes, she was raped. Yes, she was alienated. Yes, she lost her best friend and herself for a while. HOWEVER, when she finally did find a way to reach out to someone at the end of the book, she found that there were many other young women in the school who had gone through a similar experience who rallied behind her. It is a reminder that everyone needs an outlet and a voice. The more we share; the more we can help each other and our students.
Mr. Schu believes in reading and watching the world of books. There is lots of great information posted here.
Including his list of Mr. Schu’s Favorite Graphic Novels Mr.SchusFavoriteGraphicNovels .
Throughout the last few decades, politicians have called for educators to make decisions based on data and scientific evidence (Celio & Harvey 2005 among others). The last couple of years that I was in a middle school classroom as a Title 1 Reading Intervention Teacher, I was required to have data and standards-based assessments and instruction. In theory, this sounded like an ok plan. I mean really knowing what the students know and planning instruction from there sounds smart, right? However, the control and decisions often did not lie with me. I was emailed common assessments with a date to administer them. In addition to common assessments, our students were required to take twelve (yes, count them TWELVE) language arts benchmark tests aligned with the a curriculum map that was to be adhered to at all times. (I mean there were only 176 days of school, and we “lost” 12 to benchmarks, 6 for state testing, 4-5 for ITBS testing, plus all the other events where students miss class–I’ll post some research on missed class time soon and add a link.)
The pressure to stay together was so great that at one point, if a teacher posted a grade for a standard all teachers in the subject area had to post a grade within 24 hours. Oftentimes, I felt like I was climbing on the edge of a cliff waiting to see if I would find a safe foothold or not. Would I get in trouble for reading an alternate story or deviating from the daily grammar practice outline? What would happen if the administration ever figured out that I was not on the correct place on the map?
I was more off the map than on. This standardization of all aspects of my teaching and learning with my students was troubling as I base(d) my teaching and learning on relationships. I try to enact a thoughtful pedagogy that builds on the strengths and interests of the students. NOT a testing calendar and scripted curriculum.
to be continued…
You can find the #literacies chat on Twitter every Thursday from 7-8 PM EST. Search for the hashtag #literacies in Twitter.
After an intriguing semester collaborating across our courses in New Literacies and Content Area Literacies, using the hashtag #literacies, @writerswriting and I (@Dr_Pendergrass) have taken advantage of the momentum built by having so many of our colleagues think with us about the demands and dimensions of contemporary literacies. Using our course hashtag, we began the #literacies chat which will run weekly on Thursdays from 7:00-8:00 PM EST.
As we begin, we expect to build the #literacies network of educators, researchers and theorists. Feel free to index your tweets for the group with the hashtag during the week and then on Thursdays a guest host will share their expertise in an area related to contemporary literacies and engage us in conversation.