Guthrie’s one and only Novels class
Sometimes the biggest gift an educator can offer a student is the chance to get lost in a good book.
Tobi Guthrie, an English teacher at LaPorte Middle School, offers the only Novels class at the middle school. In this class, students are taught important factors of reading and analyzing short stories.
“The discussions we have are so cool because they give everyone a different point of view on the story. Every student thinks differently, and when we share our thoughts, the stories can change in our minds,” Guthrie said.
The students often read short stories– a 6 to 7 page passage written by authors such as Edgar Allen Poe and Roald Dahl. Guthrie and students then proceed to analyze and predict the events of the stories.
“Many stories that we read, or have read, were written in the 1950’s, yet great technology they have written about are so spot on. We have all these technologies that they predicted, they showed them to us, but that didn’t mean that the authors liked it. Oftentimes the innovation is bad. It almost shows our world now, with technology being everyone’s main focus,” Guthrie said.
Guthrie enjoys sharing her knowledge and the knowledge of other students to her novels class in an activity called a seminar. During this, students have the opportunity to share their thoughts on the story they are reading- what will happen, why it happened, the aspect of foreshadowing, and more. Covid, however, has affected the social process of seminars.
“I try not to talk about Covid; however it is a real thing, and the reality is that a lot of these 8th graders haven’t had a full school year since fifth grade. Because of this, their ability to hold a conversation is much different than it was two or three years ago. I find myself doing a lot more of the reading than before, and I feel like a lot of our discussions are short and dry, even if they are open questions,” Guthrie said.
Despite the struggle in the classroom, Guthrie hopes to encourage students to share their thoughts and opinions on the book as much as possible. The creativity of the students’ minds is what brings the Novels class together.
“As a teacher, I sometimes get frustrated with the things my students are forced to struggle with at home. I have to step back, and try to help them as much as possible. Our actions and our words have consequences, and I know how wonderful these kids can be when they are put in the right environment, and that’s the environment I want to give to them,” Guthrie said.
The safe environment Guthrie has created inside of her classroom has affected many students in a positive way; however, Guthrie did not know she would have such an impact as a teacher until she returned to college.
“I used to be a horse dentist. I went back to college and realized my favorite part about horse dentistry was educating the kids on how necessary it was to care for their animals, and I thought teaching would be the best path. I’m glad I did,” Guthrie said.
LaPorte Middle School is glad, too.
The Novels class has brought a safe place to many students, where they are allowed to express themselves, and Guthrie is looking forward to the many years to come.