Hopeless situations... a crazed man bent on revenge... a vain prince... a lost love... sounds like the fall Prime Time line up right? Even better, these are all part of this year's Poe Fest literature unit in the seventh and eighth grade classroom. Edgar Allen Poe remains one of America's most famous, and popular, authors. His life was pretty tragic, and may have contributed heavily to the theme of loss that is so prevalent within many of his works. But he also lived during the Romantic period. While this is not the lovey-dovey meaning of the term, artists of this period focused on the senses. Poe's paintbrush was with words and he used them to create detailed accounts of characters sinking into madness, characters bent on revenge, characters consumed in their own vices, and all the various situations they get themselves into. While there are certainly times that we'll say "EWWWW!" as we read, there are many opportunities to discuss how the virtue of hope can impact a character or how when we allow our vices to consume us that death enters in. We'll begin the unit together as we read "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Raven." Both of these works have countless spin offs, so it will be valuable for students to learn about the original. We will then break into groups to read one of Poe's other works including The Pit and the Pendulum, The Cask of Amontillado, or The Fall of the House of Usher. Students will complete individual assignments and projects based on which work they read.
In the seventh and eighth grade religion classes, we have been reading up and reflecting about modern issues concerning the morality and ethics of human life. When is a person considered a person? What does it mean to be human? What really is "human nature?" While these issues may seem distant, we need to recognize that they are not. They are certainly present in our country and even in Wichita, but life issues should concern us in our local communities and very homes. The dignity of human life from conception to natural death is our most basic right. It is violated in countless ways at countless points in between. How can we be pro-life in a culture of death? As Saint Mother Teresa says, it starts at home. Families are called to protect and defend one another in love. It starts with teaching toddlers how to share, grows into expecting older children to help the family around the house, and demands that parents play active roles in passing our Catholic faith and values onto their children by not just taking the family to Mass on Sundays, but by making time for prayer as a family and having the conversations that only parents can have with their children on matters of faith. St. Paul tells us that we are all called to be disciples, but that each has different gifts. The same applies to our efforts towards building a culture of life. Some may be called to active political service in changing government policies, but all of us adults are called to educate ourselves about life issues and pay attention to what candidates are saying in the upcoming debates. Not all of us can work at pregnancy crisis centers, but all of us can pray for the people who volunteer there and the patrons they serve. Not all of us can protest at an abortion clinic every month, but we can pray the rosary for a conversion of heart Not all of us can hold the hand of a patient with a terminal illness, but we can hold the hand of a friend or relative who is struggling. We are becoming more and more afraid of standing up, speaking out, and defending our Catholic faith. That's why the bishops have chosen "Be not afraid!" as the theme for this year. By our baptism, we are called to witness to the faith... that includes the belief that life is sacred.