I teach in a classroom in the school my father helped to build, where my mother became a charter member of the beta club. This is my own alma mater. Many of my fellow faculty members were once students here as well. This school inspires loyalty, but still we wince at the lack of some basic needs.
Understanding diversity is crucial in today's world.
My school, located in the East Tennessee Appalachians, has long had a homogeneous population. Our school's motto is "a tradition of excellence" which my students strive to uphold. We have a thriving tourism industry, so the vast majority of our students stay here. Because many of my students will never leave East Tennessee, literature provides a vital link to other cultures as the world comes to East Tennessee to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Our district has open enrollment, and students from the entire district come to our school because of our history of producing students who successfully compete in some of the best universities. Our school typifies the tipping point: Those striving for success influence others to reach for goals they would otherwise have felt were beyond their grasps. In addition to the driven students, we also have significant transient and homeless populations we help to break those cycles.
This challenging novel, set in Latin America, will fill an important void in my students' backgrounds as they connect with the characters. While students can glimpse other cultures in history and geography classes, the personalized view that a novel provides allows students to empathize with those who are significantly different. The Bridge of San Luis Rey is a character study of five people who died in a freak accident, inviting students to explore fate. Our student body is over 90% Protestant, and the view not only of the culture of Peru, but of Catholicism, are invaluable in helping my students to be open-minded. We are paired with a geography class, so I will coordinate the lessons with the geography teacher to coincide with the instructions on this region and themes.
As we study the novel, we will also look at the traditional literary techniques such as point of view, figurative language, and characterization, but our focus will be on how literature explores the human conditions
The key to a better world is understanding: understanding other people, understanding other cultures, and understanding how to find common ground.
This masterpiece is challenging enough to provide a struggle for the highest achieving students, but still accessible to all, especially with peer-to-peer tutoring and group work. It will provide opportunities for class and small group discussions and projects on the power of the written word, with a focus on the need for empathy.
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