This semester I’ve had the privileged of witnessing my cooperating teacher teach To Kill a Mockingbird and it was pretty awesome. She taught 8th graders from the Bronx in an urban public school. When I began observing the class, they was about ¾ into the book, and they were about to discuss the verdict of Tom Robinson, a black man, who was accused a raping a white woman. I was excited to see their reactions to the climax of the novel.
So before I get into the verdict of the novel I’ll like to give a quick summary of the story. To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in Maycomb, Alabama, during the period of the Great Depression. At the time setting of the novel, Alabama was segregated based on Jim Crow Laws and there was a lot of racial discrimination towards minorities. In the novel Tom went to trial because he was accused of raping a white woman. An important issue brought up in the novel is the injustice within the legal system. The lawyers, judges, and jurors consisted of all whites, who were racist towards the blacks. In the end Tom was sentenced to prison, despite the evidence that showed he was innocent. So the class had a discussion about the verdict and all the students were furious. They explained in their own words why they felt that the verdict was wrong and their responses were insightful. They analyzed how the characters in the novel reacted to the verdict why they reacted that way.
My cooperating teacher was able to connect the theme of racial discrimination to the recent issues that occurred in Ferguson and the other news that reported unnecessary police brutality and racial profiling on minorities. Students easily saw that these issues were still prevalent in our society today, so they were fully engaged into the novel. When we use novels to connect them with issues of today, I believe students will enjoy reading it more because they will see the relevance of the stories. JA