And I can hear all of you already: boys won’t like it. And I say again, tough. Young women have been reading books about boys for centuries. Young men can live with a few books that aren’t focused on them. It can be how we teach rather than what we teach that makes the difference.
About trigger warnings & parents: There is some debate among college faculty about the idea of warning students of material that might cause undue stress and, for lack of a better term, PTSD, in students. There is a scene in Bray that I thought about alerting readers to. You will, I think, know what I’m talking about it. It’s not the sexual nature of the main character early in her time in Ireland, it’s the vaguely violent, not exactly non-consensual but certainly not loving experience of it. It’s a rough moment.
I think that managing a text that deals explicitly with sex and teenage girls can be a difficult sell. But this is my point: it’s not like students aren’t bombarded with sex at every turn, and why not have real and meaningful exposure than cheap exposure? I’m honestly not sure you could get a book like this into a curriculum, but I think it is worth a try.
This Week’s Prompt: Let’s say that you managed to convince the faculty and parents at Brockton High School to let you teach this book in a 12th grade English class that meets the outcomes for the International Baccalaureate Programme. Th IB is sort of like an internationally recognized version of AP. You can read about it here. Some quick facts about Brockton High (from Wikipedia, so, you know, grain of salt) and in general:
- The high school is 60.9% African American, 20.8% White, 2.5% Asian, 12.3% Hispanic, and 3.5% other. In 2016 it was made so everyone could get free lunch. Out of its 4,250 students, 2,161 are male and 2,089 are female.
- In 2005, 98% of the senior class (850 students) graduated. In 2008 78% of the graduating senior class planned to pursue a college degree. In 2006, Brockton High School was a recipient of the National School Change Award. Brockton High School was one of 7 schools in the United States to receive this award. Out of the seven schools, there were only two high schools.
- In 2008, Brockton students had a higher level of improvement on the English MCAS than 90% of the Massachusetts high schools. By 2010 it was one of the highest performing schools on the MCAS.
- Keep in mind that 12th grade Lit is often a British Literature Survey. The IB syllabus is a little more adventurous. This might help or hurt.
- Do consider the supplemental reading as you ponder the JOYs and the COMPLEXITIES of teaching this text
- Try to be specific in both HOW you would teach this text and also HOW YOU MIGHT USE IT to teach other texts. For the purposes of thinking about that second part, Here is a link to the IB curriculum at Brockton High. This takes you to the IB page for Brockton High. Click on the English HL link for the actual syllabus.