5to. Bachillerato, American Literature

Welcome to American Literature with Mr. Michael Benedict and Torene David.....We will be reading the following books this year:

Uncle Tom's Cabin or The Glory Field

To Kill a Mockingbird

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest


The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Some of our objectives this year are to:

Improve your speaking skills in English

Improve your writing skills in English

Develop your critical thinking skills

Teach you to enjoy reading for pleasure


Help you plan your future in college and beyond.....

Friday, January 6, 2017

                                                                                                                      Guatemala, January 6, 2017
Hey Guys and Gals,

I’m Mr. Benedict or preferably Mr. B. Welcome to twelfth grade, to your senior year of high school and the last step you’ll take before stepping out into the wider world of work, business, college and/or some other form of more or less informal education, often referred to as “life.”
Twelfth grade: yet another opportunity to grow—to grow in understanding who you are and who you want to become; another opportunity to better or acquire habits and skills—whether they be reading fifteen minutes or more a day, the ability to do more things on your own such as driving, getting to places on time while making sure the car has gas, oil and water or the ability to channel your emotions so that they fuel your progress towards your goals. Yes! You’ve almost graduated and yet, you have an entire year of some pretty serious work ahead of you.
In a few short months you will be in college or in the family business or working or traveling. Can you feel it? The excitement; the wonder mixed with a little fear?
I can and I graduated from high school in 1979, whereupon I took a year off to work, to amass a portfolio and to do a very challenging college entrance exam before going to college. Ultimately I was awarded a four-year tuition-free scholarship to The Cooper Union School for the Advancement of the Sciences and the Arts and moved into my own apartment in New York City at age nineteen, where I lived what felt like ten years in roughly four. Ten years in four? That’s right! I studied full time for free, but had to work full time to pay rent, for food, clothes, supplies, books, and many other things.
And yet, I went out dancing at clubs at least two nights a week. One night, my friends and I would go to Dan Lynch’s and dance to free jazz, and the next, we would go to CBGBs and dance to hardcore punk. Or maybe we would go to Madison Square Garden to see Queen or to the Palladium to see Talking Heads, to the Bleeker Street Theater to see a couple of Chaplin or Hitchcock films on the big screen, to a Broadway or off-Broadway theatre to see a play or to Brighton Beach to take a midnight swim. Between studying, working and living, I only got about 4 hours of sleep a day, but who could sleep when there was so much to do and so much to experience.
Now I’m here at Montessori International School and I’m here to serve, that is, to help you with your acquisition of English and other academic and/or life skills. If you have any doubts as to my ability, let me tell you that I have been teaching for many years, having gotten my first real teaching job as a painting instructor in the Cooper Union Saturday Program in 1983. After a year in the program, some of my fellow teachers (fellow Cooper Union students) and I got together with some of the Cooper Union staff (teachers and directors) and created the Cooper Union Summer Program, today The Cooper Union Outreach Program: a six-week, intensive visual arts program wherein which we taught students painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, graphic design and architecture five days a week, eight hours a day. When the students in the program asked if I would be willing to give them an additional art history class at one of the museums on Sundays, I said: “Pay my subway fare and get enough food for all of us, and I’m there.” So every Sunday the students would meet me at a museum, we would see a show and then, we would go to eat in a park or on somebody’s rooftop.
Those students had needs and so do you. They made their needs known to me and I made mine known to them. Together, we arrived at an agreement and over two years of meeting on Sundays,  ended up learning a lot about art, history, food, and each other.
Now, you are my students. I know some of your needs, at least with regards to the Montessori twelfth grade English curriculum and some of what the Guatemalan Ministry of Education asks of you. You’ll have to make your other needs known to me as they arise. You have all been students for at least thirteen years so you are expert students and you can most likely guess what some if not most of my needs as a teacher are.
There’s a lot more to share and we will, but for now I would leave you with two cartoons from Greg Larson’s The Far Side and some questions.

What could these cartoons possibly have to do with me, a senior at CIM? How do I see the glass or which personality type am I, and, when or how often? What could make me see the glass differently? What am I and what is my name? If I could give myself a name or a title, what would it be? How would this name or title influence how others viewed and treated me? How does the way I and others look at things from an ever-changing perspective determine what we see or how we perceive things? What could Mr. B be telling me with these cartoons? What did he tell me about himself and what he expects of me in his letter? What could I tell him about myself that could make it easier for him to serve me?
Well…this is a beginning. So begin and begin to enjoy our time together!


Mr. B

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Welcome Class of 2017!!!

January 2017

Dear Students,

Welcome to the beginning of your last year in high school.  As I am writing this letter to all of you, I am thinking about just how much I am looking forward to having you all in American Literature this year.  I’ve met many of you before, and you have impressed me with your enthusiasm to learn and grow and your understanding of just how important it is to be bilingual in today’s very competitive world. 
I’m not sure what or how much you really know about me, so I will begin by introducing myself to you.  I got married and moved to Guatemala thirty-one years ago.  My initial reaction to this country was a combination of fear and bewilderment; however, I have come to love Guatemala and care about its future very deeply.  I live up in the mountains overlooking the city with a view that is “to die for”!  I have two grown children: Anthony, who is in the Maryland National Guard and studying in a community college, and Chelsea, who has doctorate in physical therapy and works at Johns Hopkins hospital and the University of Maryland medical school.  I also have two dogs, which simultaneously make me happy and crazy with their antics.  I vacillate between wanting to hug them or kill them. 
As you have probably heard, I am a very strict and demanding teacher.  Make no mistake that I take my job very seriously…and I believe my job is to prepare you for college and beyond.  With this in mind, I would like you to know that I expect you to give 100% in this class.  Whether your goal is to study abroad or go to a local university, you will need a good grade on the SAT, ELASH, or TOEFL exams. If you work diligently and perseveringly all year in this class, you will meet that goal.  Since all of the work we will be doing to improve your language and critical thinking skills is based on what we will be reading, it is essential that you keep up with all of the reading assignments; you cannot analyze or write an essay on a book you haven’t read.  What I as a teacher value the most is your effort, not necessarily your ability.  I expect you to hand in your work on time, strive for accuracy, speak only English in class, participate in class discussions, and keep up with the reading assignments.  I strongly believe that you are ultimately responsible for your own learning, so many of the class activities will require you to be active participants rather than just passive receivers of information.  Think twice before you miss a class and remember that you are responsible for what goes on in class whether or not you are there. 
I will be happy to provide you with all the extra help you may need…just ask…and I maintain a class blog where you can find all of the class worksheets, rubrics, assignments, calendars, vocabulary Power points, and anything else you may need while working at home.  There are audio versions of many of the books we will read this year, and these will help you enormously with your reading comprehension. There is no such thing as a “stupid question” in class…all questions and mistakes provide opportunities to learn, so don’t be shy!
Now, please take the time to tell me a little about yourselves, your interests, and your goals for this year and beyond, especially if you will need to prepare for college entrance exams. 

With warm regards,


Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday, June 1, 2012

Jay: Twentysomethings have no time to waste
By Meg Jayonlineathens.com Copyright
2012 Online Athens. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Published Wednesday, May 30, 2012
It’s graduation time again, and about 2 million students will walk across a stage
and pick up a college diploma. Then they will face terrifying statistics about employment, pressure to make their 20s the best years of their lives, and slogans that suggest that what you
do right after college may not matter anyway. What not enough graduates are hearing, however, is that — recession or not — our 20s are life’s developmental sweet spot. They matter. A lot.

Katherine came to my office just before graduation. She hoped to figure out what she wanted to do by age 30. By then, she joked, the economy might improve. “30 is the new 20,” she said, sounding unconvinced. Katherine didn’t invent this idea. Some researchers say the 20s are an extended adolescence; others call them “emerging adulthood.” This “changing timetable” for adulthood demotes young adults to the ranks of kids, just when they need to engage the most. It doesn’t help that today’s students are graduating into a global financial downturn. Research
shows that those who start their adult lives in hard times are inclined to believe that luck, not their own efforts, determines success.

Yet even as we dismiss — or just give up on — the twentysomething years, we fetishize them. Child celebrities and everyday kids spend their youth acting 20, while mature adults and the “Real Housewives” try to look 29. These are contradictory and dangerous messages. Twentysomethings have been caught in a swirl of hype and misunderstanding, much of which has trivialized what is actually the most defining decade of our adult lives.
Consider this: About two-thirds of lifetime wage growth happens during the first 10 years of a career, with the biggest gains coming from job-hopping or earning advanced degrees before marriage, family and mortgages take hold. Even the underemployed can take heart in
knowing that wage losses disappear by about age 30, if they move through post-college jobs and degrees strategically.

Personality changes for the better during our 20s more than at any other time in life, if we engage with adult roles and, as researchers say, “get along and get ahead.” Along the way, committed
relationships in our 20s make us more secure and responsible — and less depressed and anxious — whether these relationships last or not. Female fertility peaks at about age 28. And the brain caps off its last growth spurt in our 20s, making these years our best chance to learn to manage emotions and wire ourselves to be the adults we want to be. Far from being irrelevant, the 20s are acrucial period. I know this because in my sessions with those in their 30s and 40s, I’ve witnessed the true heartache of the realization that life is not going to add up quite as they’d like. When a lot has been left to do, the pressure is enormous to make money, get married, buy a house, go to graduate school, start a business, save for college and retirement, and have children in a much shorter period of time. Many of these things are incompatible and, as research
on postponing work and family is just starting to show, harder to do all at the same time in our 30s. When it comes to love, jobs and babies, 40 is definitely not the new 30. The new midlife crisis isn’t buying a red sports car. It’s smart, well-meaning 40-year-olds grieving a little as they look at themselves and say about their 20s, “What was I doing? What was I thinking?”

Newly minted college graduates are living with a staggering, unprecedented amount of uncertainty. Uncertainty makes people anxious, and distraction is the 21st-century opiate of the masses. It’s easy to stay distracted and wait for deliverance at 30. It’s almost a relief to
imagine that twentysomething jobs and relationships don’t count. But a career spent studying adult development tells me this isn’t true. And a decade of listening to young adults tells me that, deep down, they want to take their lives seriously. The 30-year-olds who feel betrayed by their 20s almost always ask, “Why didn’t someone tell me this sooner — like when I graduated from

So here goes: “30 is not the new 20. Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or do. You’re deciding your life right now.”
• Meg Jay is a clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia. She wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Why Being Bilingual is Important

The Bilingual Advantage
Published: May 30, 2011
A cognitive neuroscientist, Ellen Bialystok has spent almost 40 years learning about how bilingualism sharpens the mind. Her good news: Among other benefits, the regular use of two languages appears to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. Dr. Bialystok, 62, a distinguished research professor of psychology at York University in Toronto, was awarded a $100,000 Killam Prize last year for her contributions to social science. We spoke for two hours in a Washington hotel room in February and again, more recently, by telephone. An edited version of the two conversations follows.
Q. How did you begin studying bilingualism?
A. You know, I didn’t start trying to find out whether bilingualism was bad or good. I did my doctorate in psychology: on how children acquire language. When I finished graduate school, in 1976, there was a job shortage in Canada for Ph.D.’s. The only position I found was with a research project studying second language acquisition in school children. It wasn’t my area. But it was close enough.
As a psychologist, I brought neuroscience questions to the study, like “How does the acquisition of a second language change thought?” It was these types of questions that naturally led to the bilingualism research. The way research works is, it takes you down a road. You then follow that road.
Q. So what exactly did you find on this unexpected road?
A. As we did our research, you could see there was a big difference in the way monolingual and bilingual children processed language. We found that if you gave 5- and 6-year-olds language problems to solve, monolingual and bilingual children knew, pretty much, the same amount of language.
But on one question, there was a difference. We asked all the children if a certain illogical sentence was grammatically correct: “Apples grow on noses.” The monolingual children couldn’t answer. They’d say, “That’s silly” and they’d stall. But the bilingual children would say, in their own words, “It’s silly, but it’s grammatically correct.” The bilinguals, we found, manifested a cognitive system with the ability to attend to important information and ignore the less important.
Q. How does this work — do you understand it?
A. Yes. There’s a system in your brain, the executive control system. It’s a general manager. Its job is to keep you focused on what is relevant, while ignoring distractions. It’s what makes it possible for you to hold two different things in your mind at one time and switch between them.
If you have two languages and you use them regularly, the way the brain’s networks work is that every time you speak, both languages pop up and the executive control system has to sort through everything and attend to what’s relevant in the moment. Therefore the bilinguals use that system more, and it’s that regular use that makes that system more efficient.
Q. One of your most startling recent findings is that bilingualism helps forestall the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. How did you come to learn this?
A. We did two kinds of studies. In the first, published in 2004, we found that normally aging bilinguals had better cognitive functioning than normally aging monolinguals. Bilingual older adults performed better than monolingual older adults on executive control tasks. That was very impressive because it didn’t have to be that way. It could have turned out that everybody just lost function equally as they got older.
That evidence made us look at people who didn’t have normal cognitive function. In our next studies , we looked at the medical records of 400 Alzheimer’s patients. On average, the bilinguals showed Alzheimer’s symptoms five or six years later than those who spoke only one language. This didn’t mean that the bilinguals didn’t have Alzheimer’s. It meant that as the disease took root in their brains, they were able to continue functioning at a higher level. They could cope with the disease for longer.
Q. So high school French is useful for something other than ordering a special meal in a restaurant?
A. Sorry, no. You have to use both languages all the time. You won’t get the bilingual benefit from occasional use.
Q. One would think bilingualism might help with multitasking — does it?
A. Yes, multitasking is one of the things the executive control system handles. We wondered, “Are bilinguals better at multitasking?” So we put monolinguals and bilinguals into a driving simulator. Through headphones, we gave them extra tasks to do — as if they were driving and talking on cellphones. We then measured how much worse their driving got. Now, everybody’s driving got worse. But the bilinguals, their driving didn’t drop as much. Because adding on another task while trying to concentrate on a driving problem, that’s what bilingualism gives you — though I wouldn’t advise doing this.
Q. Has the development of new neuroimaging technologies changed your work?
A. Tremendously. It used to be that we could only see what parts of the brain lit up when our subjects performed different tasks. Now, with the new technologies, we can see how all the brain structures work in accord with each other.
In terms of monolinguals and bilinguals, the big thing that we have found is that the connections are different. So we have monolinguals solving a problem, and they use X systems, but when bilinguals solve the same problem, they use others. One of the things we’ve seen is that on certain kinds of even nonverbal tests, bilingual people are faster. Why? Well, when we look in their brains through neuroimaging, it appears like they’re using a different kind of a network that might include language centers to solve a completely nonverbal problem. Their whole brain appears to rewire because of bilingualism.
Q. Bilingualism used to be considered a negative thing — at least in the United States. Is it still?
A. Until about the 1960s, the conventional wisdom was that bilingualism was a disadvantage. Some of this was xenophobia. Thanks to science, we now know that the opposite is true.
Q. Many immigrants choose not to teach their children their native language. Is this a good thing?
A. I’m asked about this all the time. People e-mail me and say, “I’m getting married to someone from another culture, what should we do with the children?” I always say, “You’re sitting on a potential gift.”
There are two major reasons people should pass their heritage language onto children. First, it connects children to their ancestors. The second is my research: Bilingualism is good for you. It makes brains stronger. It is brain exercise.
Q. Are you bilingual?
A. Well, I have fully bilingual grandchildren because my daughter married a Frenchman. When my daughter announced her engagement to her French boyfriend, we were a little surprised. It’s always astonishing when your child announces she’s getting married. She said, “But Mom, it’ll be fine, our children will be bilingual!”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010