A Lesson Plan for Strikebreaking Substitute Teachers

A Lesson Plan for Strikebreaking Substitute Teachers

By Russ Peterson

Editor’s Note: Portland, Oregon language arts teacher Russ Peterson sent this lesson plan to colleagues, who are preparing to strike beginning on February 20th. Given that part of the corporate reform agenda throughout the country is to attack conditions of teaching and learning for public school teachers, as well as to erode contract protections of all kinds, it seems that more and more teachers will be on strike “for the schools our students deserve.”

Russ Peterson teaches at Grant High School and has taught in Portland Public Schools for 13 years. Russ gave Rethinking Schools permission to share the lesson plan with teachers around the country.

— Bill Bigelow

Good morning, colleagues!  In the spirit of collaboration that teachers engage in, I have attached a lesson I put together as part of the district request that a lesson plan be provided in the event of a strike.  I thought it would be helpful given the circumstances, and would save you all the time and effort of putting one together yourselves.

Please feel free to share with your colleagues in other schools in the district, and with others in your department who I may not know.

– Russ

SUB NOTES

  1. Photocopy the attached poem, usually attributed to Jack London.
  2. Read the poem along with the class out loud.
  3. Have the class complete the  TPSS-FASST graphic organizer (copied below) as they deconstruct the poem.
  4. After reading the poem and completing the graphic organizer, ask the following questions for discussion:
    • What is a ‘scab’?
    • What images does Jack London use in describing a scab?
    • Given these images, what is London’s attitude toward those who work during a strike?
    • Why do you think someone would work during a strike?  What are the consequences of this?  How does this fit into the model of “ally, bystander, victim, adversary”?  Which of these is a scab?  Which of these are those engaging in a work-stoppage?
    • London assumes that the striker is a man. Why would he assume this? Does he also assume that scabs are men?
    • Why does management hire scabs?  What is their objective?
    • Many times in U.S. history, employers have used workers of different races or ethnicities to break strikes. How do you think these employer tactics have affected relations between different groups of workers?
    • Should unionized workers aim their hostility more at scabs or at those who hire scabs? Why?
    • Do you (students) know any scabs?  What do you think about scabs and what they are doing?

With the remaining class time, write either:

  1. a poem of your own about scabs
  2. an essay in response to London’s poem – do you agree with London’s assessment?  Why?  Do you think London is being unfair to those who cross a picket line?  Why? With either choice, support your thesis with evidence.

The Scab

by Jack London* (1876-1916)

After God had finished the rattlesnake, the toad, and the vampire, he had some awful substance left with which he made a scab.

A scab is a two-legged animal with a corkscrew soul, a water brain, a combination backbone of jelly and glue.

Where others have hearts, he carries a tumor of rotten principles.

When a scab comes down the street, men turn their backs and angels weep in heaven, and the devil shuts the gates of hell to keep him out.

No man (or woman) has a right to scab so long as there is a pool of water to drown his carcass in, or a rope long enough to hang his body with.

Judas was a gentleman compared with a scab. For betraying his master, he had character enough to hang himself. A scab has not.

Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage.

Judas sold his Savior for thirty pieces of silver.

Benedict Arnold sold his country for a promise of a commission in the British army.

The scab sells his birthright, country, his wife, his children and his fellowmen for an unfulfilled promise from his employer.

Esau was a traitor to himself; Judas was a traitor to his God; Benedict Arnold was a traitor to his country.

A scab is a traitor to his God, his country, his family and his class.

* There is some question as to whether Jack London wrote this poem.

TPS-FASTT ANALYSIS-GRAPHIC ORGANIZER

TITLE:  Examine the title before reading the poem. Sometimes the title will give you a clue about the content of the poem. In some cases the title will give you crucial information that will help you understand a major idea within the poem.  What does the title make you think about?  What images or ideas does it conjure?  What themes might it ignite?
PARAPHRASE:  Paraphrase the literal action within the poem. At this point, resist the urge to jump to interpretation. A failure to understand what happens literally inevitably leads to an interpretive misunderstanding.  To that end, “translate” the poem into straightforward, everyday English.
SPEAKER:   Who is the speaker in this poem? Remember to always distinguish speaker from the poet. In some cases the speaker and poet might be the same, as in the autobiographical poem, but often the speaker and the poets are entirely different.  What does the speaker value?  How can you tell?  What does the speaker like or dislike?  Can you discern anything about the speaker’s identity—gender, nationality, background, time period?  How?
FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE:  Examine the poem for language that is not used literally. This would include, but is not limited to, literary devices such as imagery, symbolism, metaphor, simile, allusion, repetition, hyperbole, the effect of sound devices (alliteration, onomatopoeia, assonance, consonance, rhyme), and any other devices used in a non-literal manner.
ATTITUDE (or TONE):  Tone, meaning the speaker’s ATTITUDE toward the SUBJECT of the poem. Of course, this means that you must discern the subject of the poem. In some cases it will be narrow, and in others it will be broad. Also keep in mind the speaker’s attitude toward self, other characters, and the subject, as well as attitudes of characters other than the speaker.  Are there specific words that convey a particular tone?  What are they, and how do they work together to create that tone?
SHIFTS:   Note shifts in speaker and attitude. Shifts can be indicated in a number of ways including the occasion of poem (time and place), key turn words (but, yet, then, etc.), punctuation (dashes, periods, colons, etc.), stanza divisions, changes in line and stanza length, and anything that indicates that something has changed or a question is being answered.
TITLE:  Examine the title again, this time on an interpretive level.  Based on what you noticed as you examined the poem, what new or different resonances does the title take on?
THEME:  First list what the poem is about (subject), then determine what the poet is saying about each of those subjects (theme). Remember, theme must be expressed in a complete sentence.

NAME:  __________________________________________  Poem/Essay/Extract __________

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