The Human STain

“…how easily life can be one thing rather than another and how accidentally a destiny is made…on the other hand, how accidental fate may seem when things can never turn out other than they do.”

(As I read the third round of Gatsby essays, this time on the American Dream, and feel the same ideas bubbling up, many of which flow directly from a google search of “Gatsby American Dream” or “Gatsby Opportunity”, I’m wondering if next year if I shape the essays as a response to quotes like this. ).

Roth, Philip. The Human Stain.(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000), pp.125-126.

Great Line on introductions

What the reader wants to know is not what you plan to say but where you stand. They need some assurance that your point of view promises fresh illumination. They listen to your tone of voice, which conveys your intentions more quickly and clearly than a summary outline of the forthcoming composition. A vigorous introduction, therefore, will seek to establish not so much the subject matter to be addressed as the author’s way of addressing it. It will announce or at least prefigure the argument the author plans to pursue.

Lasch, Christopher. Plain Style: A Guide to Written English. Edited by Stewart Weaver. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002.

Classroom verbs

If I were running PD, I might try this activity. First step: make a list of all the verbs that describe what’s happening in your classroom. Then try to cluster them together.

Second step: Now do it for zoom school. It’s much harder to come up with actions and much easier to come up with descriptions. (The other option would be to run and make copies and then cross out the verbs that aren’t happening in zoom school.).

Third step: Knowing that everyone is utterly exhausted and frustrated, what are three concrete things could you do to bring the verbs from the first drawing to your Zoom class?

With my advisory, or even one of my classes, I’d love to see both student versions of this, i.e., sleeping, watching (TV), Tiktok’ing, surrendering/giving up, screaming (at the technology).

Origin Stories

Friday, in English, spent the period pondering origin stories. What work do they do? How do we tell different versions? What shorthand do they provide, i.e., when someone says “I’m from Boston“, what work does that do? When I talk about my parents having “met in San Francisco in the 1960s” how does that differ from describing a “daughter of Catholic Delco” and the “son of a TV/Radio repairman from the Altoona area”?

I had cooked up this playlist — still working on it — as a way of sharing a few songs about the claims we make about where we come from. I’m sure that folks have other suggestions (my colleagues added a number…).

(Clapper what u know about Drake/Crying emoji x2).

All of this was in service of setting up chapter six of Gatsby, where we meet James Gatz for the first time, and learn the story of what happened before he met Daisy.

A good conversation. At least a portion of the class wanted to get back to the “is this love or is this obsession” conversation; several versions “creepy vs love” and “weird vs. love” emerged.

Next we’ll have the idea vs. reality conversation; is Daisy an ideal, much like Gatsby’s new identity?

I also need to circle back to the new money vs. old money and the markers of class. Always use this video for that discussion; most humans know the feeling of being caught out for various reasons. Like Gatsby — my God the man means to go with us — we likely have some memory, some idea, some lingering embarrassment.


Hard to know if I’ll listen to this or not. I would like more shots of that home studio. But this quote:

“In our own ways, Bruce and I have been on parallel journeys,” Obama says in the first episode. “We still share a fundamental belief in the American ideal. Not as an airbrushed, cheap fiction or an act of nostalgia that ignores all the ways that we’ve fallen short of that ideal. But as a compass for the hard work that lies before each of us as citizens.”

NYT Coverage here.