Nov 13, 2008


At my school each of the core teachers also teaches an "elective" class. This is a class which is loosely connected to our core curriculum that we are highly qualified to teach ... but which is also designed to show the students that the teachers are also lifelong learners, and to allow the students to investigate passion areas, etc. The science teacher teaches electives in forensics, herpetology, etc.

My current elective class is Ghosts and goblins in the Latin American world. We looked at the chupacabra, la llorona, and the Virgin of Guadalupe. For all of my planning, or lack thereof, I ended up with one extra day to teach than I had material. I have already had the student write and perform skits, create their own version of a legend, make annotated timelines, and create artwork. I was at a loss for what to do today. Thankfully I was in the library this morning talking about the essay I am supposedly writing for my class, and I mentioned my lack of brilliant ideas for this morning's class. And angels came singing.... or rather my friend asked me why I didn't tie in today's lesson with what the students have been doing in Language Arts - they have been studying heroes, gods and villains while reading the Trojan War. My friend and I even came up with a brilliant idea that students would create the story of Juan Diego, but from his perspective as he walked up the hill, pointing out all the allegorical items, etc. One of the things I loved about this idea was that it wasn't superficial, it was higher order thinking with purpose and that it made CONNECTIONS (one of my 5 standards) between two classes.

Well, that's not what happened when I began my class. Nope. We talked for an entire hour. I tried some PowerTeaching strategies for getting animated discussions going, and that worked well. But, the basics were, we discussed the nature of gods, heroes, villains, anti-heroes, etc. We talked about the elements in mythology. What kind of situations heroes find themselves in - does it have to be as "big" as the stuff the Greek gods put the heroes through? And then in small table groups students analyzed each of the three stories. What kind of character was the main character? etc. Finally we came back together as a big class and kind of reported out on what each of the small groups had discussed.

The class came to the conclusion that the story of the chupacabra has some factual elements and some mythological elements, and that the creature itself is a monster - it does what it does not out of maliciousness or a sense of greater good/evil, but out of a need to survive.

With the story of la Llorona, most groups went back to the original story of la Malinche. The discussions about her actions and motivations were astounding. One group decided that she was actually a hero, because she sacrificed her children for the greater good of her people - there was a prophecy that if she allowed her children to leave Mexico they would be the undoing of the Aztec people. One group decided that she was an anti-hero - she was in the same impossible situation a hero is put in, but she reverted to a lower nature by killing her children, rather than rising above it. Another group decided that her sacrificing her children came too late - that it was her betrayal of her people that had been the undoing of the Aztecs and she could not redeem her past actions. Yet another group decided that she was a monster because her ghost continues to haunt people and to steal young children.

The bell rang before we were able to conclude our discussion of the Virgin of Guadalupe, but we were in serious discussion about whether or not Juan Diego was a hero in the legendary sense of the word or not. The thought I most appreciated was that Juan Diego was a hero because he was sent on a quest by a god, he performed his tasks dutifully, even though they were difficult - an Aztec getting an audience with the bishop at that time, and that as a consequence of completing the quest he was given a new quest to fulfill. His actions redeemed the Aztecs in the minds of the Spaniards, so they saved a people, thus meeting all the qualifications of the term hero. I wish we had had more time to discuss this - maybe two years from now when I can teach the class again... :)

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