Every year I looked forward to teaching Of Mice and Men to my Grade 10 non-academic classes comprised mainly of boys whose interest most days turned naturally to demonstrating their understanding of motorcycles, wrestling holds and new modes of defying adult authority. The book's short chapters and straight-forward cinematic scenes were perfect for reading aloud, and we moved easily into discussions about how Steinbeck revealed character and moved the story along. George and Lennie were tough, rough talking guys just like them. Slim was a real manly man. Curley was a jerk. And every year, when Carlson shot Candy's dog, a number of young men suddenly had to rub an irritation out of his eye or look urgently for something in his gym bag. Those days I had them write a short piece on something they cared a lot about, hoping at least that they would start to see how reading books and talking about them might play some role, even if only a little one, in their future emotional lives.
Donald Quarrie taught high school English at Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School in Peterborough, Ont., for 33 years.