Unit 1 of the school year in English 3 has been full of reflections, connections, and investigations! Over the past five weeks, juniors have been busy digging into one of the most popular novels in American literature: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Given that the main character of the novel, Holden Caulfield, is himself a teenager on the cusp of becoming an adult, our IB juniors connected to his struggles with peers and adults as he tries to solidify his own identity and belief systems.
Considering how closely the students’ own experiences mirrored that of the characters, giving Holden realistic, useful advice seemed a natural fit for a project. For this reason, our students have been writing traditional advice columns à la Dear Abby as their Unit 1 summative assessment. Before drafting, students reflected on the problems Holden faced, both explicitly and implicitly. After discussing the problems in depth, they put the life-coach hats on and considered: if Holden came to me for help, what would I advise him to do? How can he get through this difficult, confusing time in a productive way?
Some of the problems our wildcat life coaches are contemplating are Holden’s inability to maintain healthy relationships with his peers, his apparent alcohol abuse, his lack of closeness with his family, his developing depression, and many more unearthed by Holden’s new life coaches. Some of the advice students are suggesting for Holden include building closer relationships with his parents by coming clean about being expelled. If he goes home, the weight of holding back this truth from them might help him resolve other issues like his growing depression. One student wrote, “Hey Holden, join a club. Try a sport. You clearly have some anger issues that can only go away if you let those emotions out in a positive way. I bet you’d be great at football or boxing. Try hitting a punching bag instead of your former roommate, Stradlater.” Well said, life-coach.
As the Clemente juniors continue to explore the novel, they reflect on their own lives and what advice they might give a friend or even themselves. The Clemente Wildcats are constantly growing. Stay tuned for more literary adventures in English III!