Syllabus for Reading Writing and Teaching

Submitted by Karen J. Sanchez-Eppler on Tuesday, 9/22/2009, at 9:22 AM

English 2                               Reading, Writing and Teaching                            Fall 2009


Prof.  Karen Sánchez-Eppler                                                                                  Mon/Wed 2-3:30                                                                                            Webster 220

Office hours: Tues. 1:30-3:30                                                                      

Course Asst.: Kathryn Libby

Phone: 207 899-6991.


This is a somewhat unusual course.  It is a writing intensive course with a good deal of reading.  In addition, each student will work one afternoon each week either as a classroom assistant at HolyokeHigh School or as a tutor at an AdultBasicEducationCenter in Holyoke or in Ware.  We will consider from many perspectives what it means to read and write and learn and teach for each of us and for others, some of whom we will encounter through the readings in the course, others of whom you will be working with weekly.  Although we hope you will reflect a great deal about teaching, this is not a course in how to teach.  It is a course in thinking about education, the process of learning, yours and others’.


The writing in the course is designed to range across many genres.  You will be asked sometimes to draw upon some aspect of your own experience, at others to engage someone else’s experience, to read and to write poems, closely observed descriptions, critical analyses, and one or two somewhat extended essays.


In considering whether you wish to take the course it will be helpful to know the commitments involved.  We will meet twice a week to discuss the reading and the writing assigned for the course. In these discussions we expect that each of you will draw on your own experiences as students, as readers, as writers, and on what you are doing as a classroom assistant or tutor.  Furthermore, each student will be required to spend time each week at HolyokeHigh School or offering GED tutoring through the Juntos Holyoke Tutor/Mentor Program or the Literacy Project a commitment of approximately four hours each week including transportation.  In addition, there will be a number of extra activities to support your work in Holyoke: a tour of the city including visits to a number of community organizations, an orientation in the high school, a tutor training, etc…  In effect this will be a humanities course with the equivalent of a lab section B the time committed to teaching.


Once you have a teaching assignment this should be treated as an obligation so important that only serious illness can be an excuse.  Please remember that many of the students have had too many experiences of adults letting them down; don’t add to this history.  As soon as you have a classroom assignment get the phone number of the teacher or contact person so you can let him/her know if something unavoidable has come up that prevents you from meeting your responsibility.  Marie Mew is our liaison at Holyoke High, the general phone number at HHS is 534-2020 and she can also be reached by e-mail at Emily Fox coordinates the Holyoke Tutor/Mentor Program, you can reach her by phone 534-3376 or e-mail Margaret Anderson coordinates the Literacy Project in Ware, her phone is 774-3934 and her e-mail is Do contact me or Kat Libby about any problems you are having with your placement.



Book List


Roberto Santiago ed.                                        Boricuas                         ISBN: 978-0345395023

Miguel Algarin and Bob Holman eds.    Aloud                              ISBN: 978-0805032574

Tracy Kidder                                                    Among Schoolchildren   ISBN: 978-0380710898

Patrick Chamoiseau                                          School Days                    ISBN: 978-0803263765

Sylvia Ashton-Warner                          Teacher                           ISBN: 978-0671617684

Judith Frank                                                     Crybaby Butch                ISBN:978-1563411434

David Mamet                                                   Oleanna                           ISBN: 978-0822213437 


The books required for the course are available at Amherst Books. Because we will be working so closely with these books it is important, whenever possible, that each student has her or his own copy.  This course is taught often, so you may well be able to find used copies at The Option. There are also additional readings available on E-reserves. Always print these out and bring them to class.


Writing: generally there will be nearly weekly writing assignment.  These will vary in length but none will be longer than 5 pages.  Essays are generally due on Friday afternoons by 2pm but occasionally other due times are marked on the syllabus. Please put one copy in the box on Karen Sánchez-Eppler’s shelf in the English Department Office, 1 Johnson Chapel, and e-mail another copy (preferably in Word) to either  Since there is writing nearly every week, I will not accept late papers.     






Week One

Tuesday, September 8

Introduction to the course 



Wednesday September 9

Abraham Rodriguez, “The Boy Without a Flag” and Esmeralda Santiago, “The American Invasion of Macún” in Boricuas 30-46 and 159-177.

Michael Jacobsen-Hardy, Facing Education: Portraits of HolyokeSchool Children on E-Reserves.


Thursday September 10 at 6 pm

Literacy Workshop with Emily Fox and Margaret Anderson WITH PIZZA


Week Two

Tour of HolyokeHigh School during this week


Monday, September 14

Jonathan Kozol, “Hit Them Hardest When They Are Small,” The Shame of the Nation, 40-62

            Appendix on per-pupil spending in public schools of six metropolitan districts

Paul Tough, “The Harlem Project,” New York Times Magazine (June 20, 2004) both on E-Reserve.


Wednesday, September 16

Literacy Workshop with Emily Fox

Tracy Kidder, Among Schoolchildren


Writing: Write a 2-3 pp. essay about a school experience (it may be anything, from in or outside of the classroom).  Then use one element of the same experience and create a 17 syllable haiku about it. Your object in both exercises is to make the experience as detailed and vivid as possible for someone else, within the constraints of three lines or three pages. Due 2pm Friday September 18th



Week ThreeBPlacements Begin

Monday, September 21

Tracy Kidder, Among Schoolchildren


Wednesday, September 23

Sara Lightfoot, “Highland ParkHigh School” from The Good Highschool, 121-149 and

Laurie Olsen, “Maps of Madison High” from Made in America: Immigrant Students in         

            Our Public Schools, 37-57 both on E-reserve.


Writing: 2-3 pp. After reviewing how the previous weeks’ readings depictions of specific schools, write a description of your high school that focuses on detailed information, emphasizing its socio-economic profile and the relationship of its curricular offerings (class size, kinds of subjects, which students are in what grouping or track, etc.) to the demographic characteristics of the student body. You may include a map of your school if you like. 2) When you have finished the writing above, on a separate page discuss the difference for you in writing in this fashion about your school and the way you wrote and what you chose to write about in the essay and haiku versions of your first assignment. Due 10am Thursday September 24th.   


Saturday Sept 26         Holyoke Bound day-long orientation and tour



Week Four

Monday September 28

Browse through the poems in Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, then pick 10 to read carefully, prepare one of these to perform “aloud” in class, and be ready to talk about what you find interesting in this poem.



Wednesday September 30

Working with a partner pick 10-15 poems in Aloud that “talk to one another” (perhaps they share a theme, or certain formal characteristics, or a quality of voice) and read them carefully.  Together you should prepare to perform two of these poems “aloud” in class in a way that lets us see them in dialogue.  Be ready to discuss the rational for your grouping.



Week Five

Monday, October 5

Continue with Aloud presentations and discussions


Wednesday, October 7

Workshop discussion of your poems and lesson plans


Writing: Write a poem of your own about a memory, a place, childhood, parents, a teacher, a school friend--using a poem in the book as your model. Then pick a piece from Aloud or Boricuas that you think would be useful or interesting to your Holyoke students and prepare a lesson plan laying out your goals for teaching this piece and how you would implement them. What are the problems with which your students might wrestle? You may want to look at the or at the somewhat more user-friendly The Educator’s Reference Desk for model lesson plans. You don’t have to follow their forms, but you can get an idea from them of things you should be attending to. Due IN CLASS, Wednesday October 7th.


Week Six



Wednesday, October 14

            Literacy Workshop with Emily Fox, Margaret Anderson, and Zizi Ansell



Week Seven

Monday, October 19

Lisa Delpit, “The Silenced Dialogue: Power and Pedagogy in Educating Other Peoples' Children” from Harvard Educational Review, 280-98 and

Deborah Meier, “Trusting Each Other’s Agendas and Intentions: The Dynamics of Race and Class” from In Schools We Trust 78-91 both on E-reserves.   


Wednesday, October 21

Beverly Tatum, “Identity Development in Adolescence,” and “The Development of White Identity” from Why Are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? 52-74 and 80-90 and

Elizabeth Aries “Relations Ships across Race and Class” from Race and Class Matters at an EliteCollegeboth on E-reserves


Writing: Kozol, Tough,  Delpit, Meier, Tatum and Aries all write about the ways in which racism pervades and structures American education at every level from economics and politics to individual interactions and personal identity formation.  Write a three page essay that explores the nature of the race and class “achievement gap” and describes the sort of interventions that strike you as most promising. This essay should make an argument and it should engage explicitly and specifically with course readings. Due Friday October 23rd.               



Week Eight

Monday, October 26

Patrick Chamoiseau, “Longing,” School Days


Wednesday, October 28

Patrick Chamoiseau, “Survival,” School Days


Writing: Pick a passage you find powerful, of no more than a page, from School Days. Copy your passages so that you have to pay attention to every word and comma and write down all the observations you can about its (English) style.  Then, rewrite your first essay (Longing? Survival?) in Chamoiseau’s style. If you need to embellish or fictionalize or head in a slightly different direction, go ahead and do so. Then write 1-2 pages about how imitating his style affected the meaning of your experience.  The more general question here: what impact does style have upon meaning, and what might this have to do with the little boy’s, or any child’s, experience of school. Turn in your copied passage and list of observations as well. Due Friday October 30th.



Week Nine

Monday, November 2

Sylvia Ashton Warner’s Teacher


Wednesday, November 4

Continue discussing Teacher


Writing: Take a list of your own “keywords”—20 or so words that come to your mind quickly as being especially powerful or important to you, including those generated in class—and make something out of them in any way you like. Due IN CLASS Wednesday November 4th.



Week Ten

Monday, November 9                         

Patricia Williams, “Crimes without Passion” from The Alchemy of Race and Rights, 80-       97

            on E-reserves.



Wednesday, November 11

James Baldwin, “

Congo Square
” from The Devil Finds Work, 4-41on E-reserves


Writing: AI deliberately sacrifice myself in my writing@ Patricia Williams insists Awhat is ‘impersonal’ writing but denial of self@; James Baldwin finds himself over and over in the books he reads and the movies he watches even when they seem very far from his immediate experience: AI knew something about that.@ Pick one passage in either of these essays and write a three page paper that discusses with as much attention to linguistic detail as you can how the self is revealed and how it is hidden in these sentences. How do these tactics affect you as a reader? What do such sacrifices, denials, and identifications have to do with learning? Due 2pm Friday November 11th.



Week Eleven

Monday, November 16

Shoshana Felman, APsychoanalysis and Education: Teaching Terminable and  Interminable@ Yale French Studies 63 (1982) 21-44 and

 Herbert Kohl, “I Won’t Learn from You,” 9-47 both on E-reserves



Wednesday, November 18

Jan Dizard, “Achieving Place: Teaching Social Stratification to Tomorrow's Elite,” from                                      Teaching: What We Do 145-62 on E-Reserves

Carleen Basler, 2008 Senior Assembly address



THANKSGIVING BREAKB remember to tell your class that you won’t be there 


Week Twelve

Monday November 30

Judith Frank, Cry Baby Butch, 1-233


Wednesday, December 2

Judith Frank, Cry Baby Butch, 234-416 


Writing: With these past few weeks of reading in mind write a 3-page paper about an instance of resistance to learning: either your own resistance or that of one of your students at Holyoke.  This essay can be as narrative or as analytical as you'd like, but either way, it should be richly detailed. Due Friday December 4th.



Week Thirteen

Monday December 7

David Mamet, Oleanna


Wednesday, December 9

David Mamet, Oleanna


Week Fourteen


Monday, December 14






Due Monday December 15th

Write a new 5 page essay in which you reflect on your experience in and through the course this term.  You should focus on one or more of the texts that we have read as a way of organizing the essay; you are encouraged to bring insights from your own educational autobiography and from your experiences in Holyoke to your discussion of these texts.  Feel free to use whatever materials and whatever written form will make this essay as searching and meaningful for you as possible.