Sometimes being an unorthodox teacher means choosing unorthodox authors to study. Madeleine L’Engle wrote a number of children’s books, and it it for those that she is best known. However, I love her essays and poetry for its beautiful imagery and profound emotions. Her spirituality is evident, and her unique point of view is worth close examination, especially by high school students.
I choose to explore her work, Bright Evening Star, a book of essays about the Incarnation of Christ. It’s the perfect choice for the weeks leading to Advent and Christmas, because it puts the season in perspective. Asking students to restate her written images into a digital art form makes them think, not only about L’Engle’s perspective, but about their own faith as well.
Other unorthodox authors I love to use: Annie Dillard, C.S. Lewis, Adeleine Yen Mah, Laura Hillenbrand, and lesser known works of Thornton Wilder and Flannery O’Connor.
The classics are important, but it’s good to step outside the bounds of Spark Notes materials and let students do some deep critical thinking on their own. Add in some art projects or community service, and suddenly the unorthodox becomes relevant and effective.