want to do anything, and Esther wants to do everything, and neither one of them can do anything.” Bullseye.
I think I finally became a pretty good literature teacher, but it's very, very hard work, harder even than teaching writing. I'm glad I stuck with it and went the distance. And I'm glad I found a good role model in Mr. Anton, the inspiration for my personal “Continuation Theme.” It's a strange thing to have a favorite teacher that you've never met. I can't really say that I have continued in his tradition since I never saw him teach, but sometimes I imagine myself in front of the class: dark and intense; long, coarse hair falling wildly over my eyes; pacing the floor like a caged tiger; slashing hands through the air in savage gestures; reading vivid passages from graphic books like The Catcher in the Rye.
Lortie, Dan C. 1975. Schoolteacher: A Sociological Study. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Peck, Robert Newton. 1972. A Day No Pigs Would Die. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
Plath, Sylvia. 1971. The Bell Jar. Toronto: Bantam Books.
Salinger, J. D. 1945. The Catcher in the Rye. Toronto: Bantam Books.
Sinclair, Upton. 1905. The Jungle. New York: The New American Library, Inc.
Sizer, Theodore R. 1992. Horace's School. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Walker, Alice. 1967. “Strong Horse Tea.” In Love and Trouble. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Wright, Richard. 1945. Black Boy. New York: Harper Collins Publications, Inc.
1. Reins mentions Dan Lortie's discussion of “The Continuation Theme, ” the idea that “people who liked school as students often decide to work in schools as adults.” Was this Reins's experience? How would you characterize your own experience in secondary schools? In what way has it influenced your decision to become a teacher?
2. What attracted Reins to literature—that is, what did he like about the literary experience? How does this compare or contrast with your own experience as a reader? What, in the end, attracted you to the study of English?
3. Think about the teacher who drew a target on the blackboard. How would you evaluate this as a metaphor for what should happen in the English classroom? Note that Reins himself seems uncomfortable with it—and changes it later in the article.
4. Reins says that teaching literature is “very, very hard work, harder even than teaching writing.” Do you agree or disagree? Explain your answer.
Remembering Your English Teachers
My teachers in seventh and eighth grade were my personal stereotype of high school English teachers. They were prissy, “old maid” types, one of whom even carried a wooden ruler with her for discipline. They both emphasized grammar, grammar, grammar, and we had a lot of work-sheets. My last two English teachers were far different. Miss H. was young and beautiful. The boys in class were in love. Mr. D. was overweight, sloppy, and sarcastic. They were both cool and reserved, and demanded excellence of us. They exposed us to the twentieth century rather than the nineteenth.