How Do Eighth Grade English Teachers Connect with Their Students?

In the first two weeks of eighth-grade English, our Hoppers have delved into discussions of character, exploring the fictional figures in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and writing an essay about their own self-perception.

Fahrenheit 451 asks readers to imagine a world in which firefighters burn books, conversation is a relic of the past, and television screens are giant and flat! Our class discussions have considered how the culture we share today resembles and differs from Bradbury’s dystopian future, how the novel uses metaphor to contrast characters, and how the central figure, Guy Montag, progresses from happy thoughtlessness to painful self-knowledge.

By way of comparison, we have also read and watched several other short narratives about self-discovery, from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story” to Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave.” In this week’s annotation project, students worked in teams to mark up a Fahrenheit passage printed on large posters that we hung in the hallways, displaying their close reading skills (and their love of colored markers).

The opening essay in eighth grade English asked students to write about their own lives by reflecting on one of the first things that others learn about them—their name. And, like their names, no two of these creative and thoughtful paragraphs were quite the same! Some chose to write about etymology, some a namesake they admire, some the meaning of a favorite nickname; in the weeks to come, our class projects and discussions will continue to connect self-reflection with literary analysis, using reading as an opportunity to explore a variety of perspectives, both those of ourselves and those of others.

According to them:

They are strong.
They are warriors.
They are well-readdisciplined, and attentive.
They are patienthardworking, and loyal.
They are problem solvers.
They are complex.
They are unique.
They like to stand out and make a difference.
They like to help others.
They are not defined by words or labels.

And, in their own words from their essays:

My name symbolizes good looks and talent. Without sounding conceited, I think that it is why it is a great name for me.

My name has helped me realize that a role model doesn’t have to be perfect.

I know the impact an assumption can have, and I’ve also been on the other side of the spectrum. I’ll be careful with my assumptions so that I do not inflict the pain that I felt onto others, because no one should ever feel unworthy of their name.

It’s kind of fun, actually, inhabiting my different names, changing people’s perceptions and expectations of me as the name I am called changes.

My name reminds me of two things: that I am very lucky, and that I’m never alone.

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