Joe Riener, long-time teacher of high school English and adviser in theater and journalism, joined the Education Town Hall on February 11 to discuss literature and the conversations it can inspire, in- and outside the classroom, and his new publications on The Possibilities of Literature and Composition. The two-volume work highlights the “value of a liberal education” and the full humanity of young people.
Riener’s books — Teach Me How to Work and Keep Me Kind: The Possibilities of Literature and Composition in an American High School, Volume 1 and Puzzle Me the Right Answer to that One: The Further Possibilities of Literature and Composition in an American High School, Volume 2 — are meant to promote “literature as a way to have conversations with students about the purpose of work, the struggle for kindness, the necessity of morality,” as well as the basis for improving student writing. This, he adds, “stands in contrast to the Common Core Curriculum’s focus on skill development.”
Joe Riener taught AP English at DC’s Wilson Senior High School for 17 years, worked with the theater students producing plays during that time, coached the girls varsity soccer team for 11 years, and served as faculty sponsor of the school newspaper for 5 years. His publication is divided into two volumes, covering the two AP English classes he taught
The books offer both the class-to-class readings and thoughts about them, as well as the rationale involved in selecting each work for students to consider. Riener says his hope is that the books will “serve as a guide and inspiration to young teachers, about what might be possible for them, if they were trusted to find their own voice in the classroom.” In addition, his work can serve to help adults, whether educators or not, newly approach literature they may think they know.
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