Declare your pet peeves when teaching a new book/novelVenting time, y'all! Here are mine: 1. Students saying "Ah Maaaaan" and "how many pages do we have to read again?" 2. A book in which the...

Declare your pet peeves when teaching a new book/novel

Venting time, y'all!

Here are mine:

1. Students saying "Ah Maaaaan" and "how many pages do we have to read again?"

2. A book in which the school board or college syndicates had to do a special meeting to approve.

3. The "I don't get it" (because they didn't read it) excuse.

4. Cliche books

5. The fact that the kids were told to read it over the summer or prior to class with NO schema to base their knowledge upon.

Maybe it's just me but if I'm going to teach the likes of Dickens I cannot trust that my streetwise,urban, city college students will necessarily "connect" with Regency England.

Am I alone in this?

Asked on by M.P. Ossa

18 Answers

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

My pet peeve is: I read this already!  What can I read instead.  This implies that all there is to studying a book is to read it.  I always explain that they will get more out of reading the book the second time around, and they will learn something knew about themselves:  how much they've changed since they last read it.

booboosmoosh's profile pic

booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I usually will only choose to teach a new unit if I really like it. I find it is easier if I'm vested emotionally and intellectually.

Part of the problem is me. When I teach something new, I read it, make notes, a study guide, vocabulary lists, worksheets and tests, chapter tests, a final test, and (hopefully) engaging writing, and in-class and homework assignments. I usually also have to provide accommodations for special-needs students.

I actually enjoy doing these things, though keeping up with all of these "parts" is often difficult after I assign them. I also find that learning to pace myself and figuring out the things I need to tweak and how long a unit will take, requires several years of teaching it.

I don't worry about students complaining at the beginning. They always do it, and I usually request that they "cry me a river."

My biggest peeve, though, is when I do all of this, believing it is a a truly worthwhile unit with a great deal of potential, and the students absolutely won't do it, hate it, or just don't care. (For example, we did excerpts from The Odyssey for the first time last year. I loved it. So many pieces of The Iliad and The Odyssey are alluded to all the time. For them, it was if they had lost their imaginations. It was like pulling teeth.) That kind of thing is hard to take: it's so disheartening.

Another peeve was shared much earlier in the posting: the "I didn't understand it" because they didn't read it. I find this with To Kill a Mockingbird all the time. After the history of the Finches and the condition of the post-Civil War, depressed South (which I walk them through), how can they not get it? The book is made up of a bunch of short stories all related to the kids, Atticus, Boo and Tom Robinson. Loving the book as I do, I refuse to stop teaching it.

It's a relief to hear you all share a lot of the same peeves. It really isn't me!

howesk's profile pic

howesk | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

The thing that bothers me most is when students just plainly say, "I hate reading!"

I say to them, "When is the last time you read a novel?" Most of the time, the answer is, "Never."

My students don't have the patience to get truly involved in a book. They'd rather have the instant gratification of a movie or Sparknotes. When I started reading "The Things They Carried" with my 11th grade students, they were extremely surprised by how interesting and moving they actually found the book.

msmegmaynard's profile pic

msmegmaynard | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

I think one of the things that gets me most miffed is when I exert so much energy and exude enthusiasm about a novel and a student ignores discussion, neglects reading, never gives the book a chance... and uses Sparknotes or something similar to get all of the "answers" and information they think they will need. Copy-pasted papers make my ears steam!

brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

Whispers to a friend: "Don't read it, we'll just look it up online!"

Reading out loud with your face in the book, so you sound more like an introverted horse whisperer and no one else in the class can hear you.

It's day four, and you're still on page four.

"I'm not reading any book that has Spanish words in it"

Checking the book out from me, only to have me find it on the ground in front of my room.

kiwi's profile pic

kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted on

My pet peeve would be 'I think we should study...(place curent pulp eg Twilight here). Its better.' I do try to design my courses to offer a varied and diverse reading diet, but there are times when I have to remind classes that our primary reason for study is education: entertainment is merely a happy sideline. Our examinations require student to write on a novel they have studied - I still get the occasional student who will write about the text they have just finished reading for pleasure. I love it when the text is studied and enjoyed, of course, but often students do not see that study is more than reading.

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Ahhh, yes, the days when their only source of information was Cliffs Notes.  How I long for such simplicity.  Students who routinely ask their peers (in lieu of reading, of course), "What happened?"  As if a few sentences of plot alone will get them anywhere. It shouldn't, anyway. We practice telling classmates "no" in all kinds of scenarios, including "sharing" information--helping others cheat.  It works for some, though probably not enough.

susan3smith's profile pic

susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

I hate comment "I just couldn't get into it!" Before the student even gives the book a chance, he dismisses it because it did not catch his attention immediately--or, he never even opened the book in the first place. 

 I remember when I battled Cliff Notes.  Armed with a huge selection of those Notes, I felt very prepared to catch those using them instead of reading the book.  Then videos came out, and I had to structure my assessments so that I could assess reading skills rather than viewing skills.  Then, of course Sparknotes.  It's a neverending battle to keep students reading, engaged, and avoiding short cuts.   

MaudlinStreet's profile pic

MaudlinStreet | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

Ditto to all! I hate cliffnotes/sparknotes comments....and I usually tell students that if I hear something that sounds suspiciously like shallow analysis from the internet, they will not be pleased with their grade. As for the movie part, I just tell them that they won't like the movie either.

I too am peeved by students who don't do the reading, then ask ridiculously obvious questions in class. My response: "Find it in the text."

scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

My number 1 pet peeve is the "Sparknotes" comment. Other than that, what has really bothered me this year is when my AP English students (ones who should be readers) make comments such as: "I can't read all of this!" or "I've never actually completely read a book for school."

besure77's profile pic

besure77 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

I also do not like it when the students make groaning sounds when it is time to turn the page after they have already made it clear that they do not want to read the book. What happened to the love of reading?

I also agree with the previous responders regarding watching the movie versions of books. I don't think that they realize that many times the movies are usually completely different.

ask996's profile pic

ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

I grew up reading and loving it. However, I was not inundated with myriad options for entertainment as today's students are. Add to that the fact that some teachers try to pound every bit of teachable material from the novel into the student's heads, and it's not surprising that we hear groans and complaints. Excellent book (I can't remember the author) entitled Readicide addresses how the love of and skill in reading is being destroyed in our nations students.

lrwilliams's profile pic

lrwilliams | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

I agree with accessteacher about sparknotes. The one I always hated and knew was coming with each book was, "Isn't there a movie of this book?" Then the rest of the class chimes in why cant we just watch it on video!

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

My most "explosive" moment was when I gave out A Tale of Two Cities. After all the customary groans of "Oh MAN!", "How many pages?!" and (my favourite) "NOT DICKENS!", I thought we would be able to get down to work. Until one little bright spark in the back row put up his hand and asked, innocently, "It's on sparknotes, right?"


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psmortimer | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted on

We all have our pet peeves but this forum isn't nearly long enough!

When I was mentoring a certain group of students, more than one had trouble with a book that was regularly used in a Language Arts class. I tried to be supportive since I firmly believe that everyone just needs to find the right book.

The middle school girl I was working with complained about the language in the book and how difficult it was to read and understand. I read a chapter or two with her and could not agree more. It was horrible. It was not well written and the affected language was so mangled that someone with a perfect understanding of the English language would have scowled and scratched her head a few times.

Because I was a one-on-one I had the option of choosing the books with my students. What a joy!

slechet's profile pic

slechet | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

Yes, my number one pet peeve is when they ask if there is a movie for the novel and I always tell them "NO" but we can make one ;)

Also, there is the use of NO FEAR SHAKESPEARE which is actually a great resource if the students who have trouble with the language actually use it.  I prefer to teach directly from this online document as students can more easily relate to the "normal" English language and actually "get" what Shakespeare is saying.  At least this way I'm not battling with the "I hate this!   It doesn't make any sense!" attitude and we can take a real look at the meaning behind the text.


epollock's profile pic

epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

I sometimes hear students ask me , "What are the really important parts?" I am sure Melville or Hawthorne would have loved to hear people say that, as if they should have wrote a few books of 17 pages each with "just the important stuff." But such is life, and such is the thinking of students whom did not read the assignment.