EXPLORING TEACHER'S AWARENESS IN THE TEACHING OF COLLEGIATE LITERATURE WILL REVEAL HOW THEY GO THROUGH THE LITERATURE INSTRUCTION AND WIILL ENABLE THEIR STUDENTS TO BE PREPARED FOR COLLEGIATE LITERATURE.
TEACHERS IN LITERATURE, BOTH IN COLLEGE AND SECONDARY LEVELS, SHOULD HELP IN BRIDGING THE STUDENTS TO A NEW DIMENSION OF LEARNING.
At the high school level, English teachers should try to scaffold instruction to move students from the lower complexity level of middle school to the the sophistication of college-level literature. High school is the bridge between just reading and studying literature.
I think this post may be vague because college-level literature can be secondary-level literature, and vice versa. I took a 400-level course in college where I read Jane Eyre, meanwhile the freshman high school teachers at my school teach Jane Eyre. Does this mean that Jane Eyre is a college-level text, or a secondary text? Who makes this determination? Consider Shakespeare -- most of us have left high school with at least having read Romeo & Juliet and Macbeth, but that certainly does not mean it cannot be approached at a collegiate level.
True literature, the literature that belongs in the literary canon, can be adopted for all levels --including middle school (think Lord of the Flies) --because it is, by nature, layered. It is up to the teacher to determine what factors should or should not be illuminated (Oedipus complex in Hamlet), but teachers should not be "commended" (per se) for teaching "collegiate literature" in high school -- there is no other literature.
I am not technically sure what the difference is between college-level literature and secondary level. I do know that my AP Literature curriculum was approved by the College Board, so I must be making enough good choices. That said, preparation for college isn't all about the texts, its about the practice with the critical reading and writing skills that will demonstrate an understanding of a text. I do teach some complex works, and I choose carefully in regards to the maturity of the subject matter and language. My student's post-secondary experiences are so widely varied that I can't worry too much about whether they might see a text again in college; I can only hope that having worked with a text once will be enhanced by a second opportunity.
I look at the classes and the teachers working with the students that sign up for AP Lit and I think they do a fantastic job of preparing kids to do college level work in interpretation and analysis of literature. Having majored in English in college, I also tend to think that it would be better if we could differentiate more within the AP English classes to allow those students that are interested in being English majors in college or university to really focus and do that kind of work while allowing students that don't the opportunity to work on different types of things with similar skills.
But all in all, at least in my school, students that take one or both AP classes are certainly better prepared for college level work than I was!
I'm encouraged about the level of instruction students all over the country are getting every time I read commentary by my professional colleagues on enotes. I know not every literature teacher is taking students to new heights and offering critical thinking, analysis, and writing opportunities like they should. But, I'd be willing to bet most of us had high school English teachers who inspired us in this way, which means there is a core of good teaching happening over time. It's a waste of amazing potential not to expect more from students at every level and in every subject. My experience tells me they will generally rise to the occasion if given the opportunity--and it's true of students at any level. They give us what we expect.
I agree with the above posts. As a high school English teacher, my goal is to teach students critical reading skills, and have them leave my class with the ability to approach all texts with close-contextual analysis. These are skills that students will need at both the university and community college levels, as well as engaging their minds to practice higher order thinking, which they will need as adults no matter what path they choose.
In my classroom, we practice passage analysis, as well as scheduling discussions among groups, with the rest of the class participating. I try to model these discussions on what students would experience in a college seminar, while the passage analysis/teacher-guided study operates more like a lecture (not that I just stand in front of my class and talk, but it's definitely teacher-led). I also try to choose literature that students might experience on a college syllabus. The problem with that is most teachers are limited to a district-approved book list. For example, in AP Lang. and Lit., I make every attempt to include literature one would ordinarily not see in high school, which often means including contemporary selections. I could teach more contemporary texts in my other classes, but the library doesn't have class sets, which means I would have to ask students to purchase the books. As a child of a single mother (she made $8000 a year when I was in high school), I have grave misgivings about requiring students to purchase books. I know there's many discount websites available (I encourage my AP students to use those resources), but I don't think it will be worth it to many students in other classes.
Overall, I make every effort to choose college level texts when appropriate, and (no matter what text I'm using) encourage students to think beyond the typical standardized test question levels. I want them to see a connection to their own lives, to the society in which they live, and how they can use their prior knowledge to access the literature. My goal is to prepare students to think at that higher level, no matter what they choose to do in life.
The previous thoughts were well articulated. I would second the idea that challenging students is something that is ingrained in the best of teachers. It is a challenge to get students to begin the process of thinking past where they are and into a realm where future exploration is going to be needed. I think that teachers need to be aware of both the literature present, but also how they perceive the literature themselves in order to assess greater sensitivity to nuances within it. This will help make literature more appealing to students and allow for greater discussions in the classroom setting. When we have to explore the idea of "a new dimension of learning," it is in this realm where I think that we see more of what differentiates good teaching from great teaching. It is here where this difference resides in attempting to make students "read" as opposed to making the teaching of literature "an experience." I think that the best moments in the teaching of literature happen in the latter as opposed to the former.
I'm going to guess that you are actually looking for personal answers to this question. Before I get personal, I will say that from experience both as a student and now as a teacher, this is perhaps a measurement of the best high school English teachers. Teachers who, at a high school level, can present collegiate texts and take their students into discussion levels that they will most likely see in college do exactly what your question suggests - bridge students to a new dimension of learning.
My own high school English teacher did this. I would argue that I learned more from her than many of my college professors, simply due to the small size of my high school class and the large-lecture style nature of my beginning college English classes.
As for teachers here on eNotes - based solely on the level of answers provided on a daily basis and the dialogue that takes place in the discussion forum, I would guess that most of us are extremely comfortable in not only teaching collegiate literature, but engaging our high school aged students to think on higher levels. Although we know that not all of our students will go on to college - we teach as if they are - constantly preparing them for the next thing.
It is definitely a good idea to teach college-level literature to high school students who are prepared for it. In fact, I believe that college-level texts are actually required in the curriculums of AP Literature and AP Language. Some classic texts are difficult to lable as "high-school level" or "college-level." In fact, it is very possible that even elementary or middle school students are capable of reading material that is supposedly college level. It is hard to put all books into categories based on level. Students should be able to read whatever they are read to read.