Arthur & Harry : a hero lesson

Coming Of Age


One of the many lessons I created and enjoyed teaching during my tenure at St. Alban’s School for Boys in Washington, D.C. is this one: The Hero Myth in Literature.

This unit included each student reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone during the first month of the school year, while settling into the library routine. It is surprising that many of my students, while having seen the films, had not read the books, including this first one of the series. Incidentally, it began a love of this series, where I could not keep them on the shelves!

Following this text, depending upon teacher-librarian preference, students read aloud or with their own copies, the beginning chapters of Arthur’s boyhood from either Morpurgo or White stories. This allows for comparisons that evolve within the lesson.

I am including here:

  1. King Arthur & Harry Potter
  2. Rubric.King Arthur & Harry Potter
  3. Comparisons
  4. Power Point presentation with Prezi

You are welcome to download and adapt any or all of the materials. Credit is appreciated for references.

Morpurgo, Michael and Michael Foreman, illus. Arthur, High King of Britain. Egmont, 2013.
Rowling, J.K. and Mary Grandpré, illus. Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone. Scholastic, 1997.
White, T. H. The Once and Future King. Penguin Publishing, 1987.

Dead Zones

Conversation with my student

“They found that the number of dead zone events have doubled each decade since the 1950s and that humans have likely contributed to their growth in intensity and size.”

After school, our library is a relaxed and semi-quiet place where students gather for two plus hours, starting homework with their classmates or reading curled up with a pillow and blanket. My yoga music plays quietly while pencils whirr in the sharpener, binders click open and shut, and the Nespresso machine blasts out at least one espresso for me and any other teacher who is in need.

It is truly the end of a long day for all when our energy is waning, and comfort is sought. Brain power is often at a premium. So you can imagine my surprise (trite but so true!) when a student asked me:

“Ms. H, do you think it makes any difference to the universe if we exist or not?”

Without even thinking, I blurt out a definitive, “No.”

“Then why does man think he is so important?” he continues.

This launches an interesting conversation about man as animal, along with varying philosophical approaches on man’s existence, leaving us both with something to ponder. I assume his is about these beliefs; mine, about my amazing students.

Returning home and relaxing with the print newspaper (note bold!), I open to”Larger ‘dead zones,’ oxygen-depleted water, likely because of climate change.”  I smile, not because I am a cynic at what seems inevitable.

I smile because this wonderful young man is thinking seriously about our life on earth – and it is this act which brings hope.

divider line
This is a re-post of one from years ago, yet still so relevant that I could not “delete” it. The student who asked this of me, will soon graduate and go on to do great things for the world. I was so lucky to teach three of these boys who are not only brilliant, but empathetic young men. Yes, there is hope for the world on many levels.

Fears, D. (2014, November 11). Larger ‘dead zones,’ oxygen-depleted water, likely because of climate change.
Health & Science. Retrieved November 12, 2014, from

Kids & the beauty of silent reading

Silent reading & boys

This brief, one-page article, Boys Reading Silently, discusses the return to “silent reading” & the consequences for young readers within the school library setting.

Hudak, Tina, “Shhhhh! Reading in the Lower School Library.” The Bulletin. St. Albans School, Washington, D.C. Winter 2017-2018. Print.

Lyrics, letters, & learning

Those primary sources

More than a year ago, the busband and I drove to Cleveland. A short road trip. All this for rock ‘n roll, art, food markets, and of course the local library, otherwise known as “the people’s university.” Love it!

Being a librarian, it is hard to escape ANY teaching moment, regardless of a student audience. Nay! this did not stop me. When I returned home, I just HAD to put this together to augment a lesson for my wonderful students.

As Flav says,

Feelings can be right and feelings can be wrong Without trust it won’t be strong, it won’t be right

Included in the short video are report cards, lyrics on paper scraps & napkins, objects that inspired…hence the motorcycle owned by John Mellancamp. You gotta love primary documents. Yes?

map of Celveland waterfront where Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is located

Works cited:

“Flavor Flav Two Wrongs.” Lyrics, Genius, Accessed 10  Oct. 2018.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,

Books for Boys

Books for Boys

For twenty years as a school librarian I have encouraged reading with boys, as it is common knowledge [even with the popular press] that for pleasure, most boys read less than girls. Of these twenty years, thirteen were with boys only; cajoling and requiring boys to read, read, and read! One of my additional and ulterior motive, other than reading for pleasure, was to coax these very boys to read books written by women with female protagonists.

boys reading girl books

How better for one gender to learn to value the other than by appreciating the very talents that defy gender?

The lesson for my students and the article written for a professional journal are included here, “About Boys Reading Girl Books”. START HERE GirlBooks. With reading. With breaking down stereotypes and preconceptions about one another.

Hudak, T. (2016, June 1). About Boys Reading “Girl” Books. Teacher Librarian, 34-37.

Teaching with my cats

Teaching with my cats

As a librarian and teacher, my students wrote. How better to understand the life of the sentence, the emotional impact and interplay with description, than to write? How can one better appreciate the choice books lining the library shelves, than to appreciate the craft of writing through the act itself?

breakfastUsing the short story form and essay prompts from a favorite title with works by young adult writers the likes of Matt de la Peña, Ransom Rigg, Rita Williams-Garcia,, Breakfast on Mars and 37 Other Delectable Essays: Your Favorite Authors Take A Stab at the Dreaded Essay Assignment provided our template.

 As with all lessons, it was incumbent upon me to “do the work” too. How could I understand my students otherwise? 

My essay below is based upon the exemplary writing in this collection by Elizabeth Winthrop, “My Life Before Television.”

Work cited:

Wolf, Brad, and Rebecca Stern. Breakfast on Mars and 37 Other Delectable Essays: Your Favorite Authors Take A Stab at the Dreaded Essay Assignment.  Roaring Brook Press, 2013. Print.

My Life before Cats

Our house always seemed too quiet for my taste, as a child.  We lived in, what was called back then, a row house. This is where one house is slammed against the other, as if they are trying to hold each other upright.  What this also meant was that you and your next-door neighbor shared a wall.  You shared the sounds each house made if those noises were against the shared wall.  So, it was important to BE quiet. Fortunately for our neighbors, my two sisters and I were fairly well-behaved. Oh, this was not because we were born that way; rather, because my dad meant serious business if he told us to “quiet down” and we ignored him! 

We rarely had pets of any sort. Once, when my older sister was doing a science project in high-school, we kept the guinea pigs afterwards. Unfortunately, my mom got asthma, and they had to go, even though they were quiet. Next, my middle sister brought home a stray dog.  We kept him too… for a while.  He was not quiet. My father found a home for him. A guy he worked with at the steel mill had daughter who was “simple-minded” – a label from the early 1960s. Other kids were afraid of her, even though she was really nice. She did not have a lot of friends, and she was lonely.  So, our dog went to her. I cried, but it was better for her, our dog, and especially our neighbors.

When I grew up and had my own family we bought a house – standing all by itself and surrounded by a big yard. Space between our neighbors and us. It was living here when I finally got my first cat.  She was a tortoise-shell stray who just showed up. She stayed.  She was not terribly friendly or cuddly, but I liked the way she strutted around, talking incessantly. She was noisy.

JugsNext, my sons found an orange cat – a stray with only three legs.  He was very friendly, very quick, and very talkative. We had to keep him.  Then, the animal shelter called us, “Did we want another cat – a three-legged one – a little black one. Of course we did! For many years in our house we lived with these three, no-longer-stray cats. Until on an autumn night, a fourth, feral kitten, a calico, came to our kitchen door.  The following week we brought her in.  No surprise here.

It was never quiet after that!  There was constant meowing, howling, growling. There were my two boys fighting over who won this and that.  Oh! Did I mention the dogs?  Two. Big ones. And, a husband. The only quiet, living thing in the house, except when he yelled at our boys for fighting. Then, everyone was loud.

My life was no longer quiet at home, except at meal times. And, this was A-okay!

The Good teacher

The Good teacher

“He has what it takes to be a good teacher – compassion, a comfortable manner, humor, and the ability to zero in on what is important.”

This was included in a written reflection to a parent about one of my middle school students. This particular student challenged me throughout the few years I worked with him. I felt that our relationship as a teacher to her student was often strained – one where I never felt I could reach his core understanding; one where I could never see the “aha” in his face.

It was not until a class period where my exasperation level was dangerously high after fruitless repetitions on the details of an assignment – one where I could barely stand to hear my own voice one more time – that I asked this very student to work with his classmate who was clearly struggling more than others.

It was in this role, as a teacher, where he blossomed. Without hesitation, he pedagogically fraternized with his classmate. As a peer, he stood his ground naturally – as easily as if they had been on the athletic field practicing pitches to one another. Back and forth went the banter. Back and forth the smiles and laughs. And all this time he was weaving in the support, the details, the friendly critique, bolstering the success of the other.

I have come to realize that teaching is an extension of one’s essential self.  How on earth had I missed the essence of this young man –  the animation in his body movements as he explained an abstract concept with gesturing hands, bright eyes flashing?


The arrogance that can so easily accompany a teacher persona was humbled by the authenticity of youth. This young man taught me a lesson.  That day he had what I, as the teacher, lacked. Yes, it was I who had the “aha” experience that day.

Photograph, St. Albans School, Washington, D.C. The Lower school doors and iconic bulldog.  TH ©2016