Being Ms. B

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Mar 03 2012

In which reading is everything

About 98% of the time, this blog is about me.  My struggles, my moments of clarity, my hilarious and often ridiculous inner monologue.  And this is good, because in the past 6 weeks during which I have clawed my way out of Deep Dark Depression (a word that I do not use lightly), I have learned to tilt the balance of my existence back towards myself.  I can love (or hate) my kids and my job all day, but ultimately I have to come home and give myself the space to be a human being, not a Great American Teaching Machine.  It is also good, because I can protect my school and my kids by not speaking to the specifics of our daily interactions.  It is finally good, because as the last remnants of Kool Aid have drained from my ears, I feel that I have no right, no right at all to write as if I am Saving The World One Child At A Time Forever And Ever Amen.

Still, there is that 2% of the time when my children do something so good, so true, that I not only feel like a real teacher, but I feel like I want to tell the world about their moments of clarity.

First, confession.  I have not been that ELA teacher who has spent her time and energy on pontificating to children about why they should read and what makes reading so darn wonderful.  I know that I should have been doing that since day one, that every inch of my being should have screamed READING MOTIVATION, but as I have drowned, or tread water or tentatively doggy paddled, I haven’t had the energy.  Still, because of the ever lovely UMSL and the onward march towards testing, I have had to/wanted to find out what my kids think about reading.

Yesterday was Dr. Seuss’s birthday, fondly known as Read Across America day.  When my kids entered the classroom, I asked them to “write without stopping,” which is something that I have started doing in order to stop them from self-editing and choking before writing.  The question asked them to write to a younger student and explain to them why reading was fun/important.  I was prepared to argue with my students all day, saying, “Well if you don’t think it’s fun… you must know that it’s important.”

The first thing you should know is that I got no push back at all.  The second thing you should know is that everything my students came up with was organic – not something that I had said that they were regurgitating.  Were they regurgitating past teachers/parents/etc.?  Probably.  Still, the ability to recall these motivational statements and re-use them in a new setting has to have at least some meaning.

Here are my favorites, with original spelling and grammar mistakes in tact (remember, they weren’t supposed to be self-editing):

  • “I love Dr. Suess [sic] books if he was a rapper he would be some one to be sold out before the tickets were ready.” [I Love This.  I would buy that ticket in a heartbeat.]
  • “What makes reading fun is, because you can go anywhere between two pages.” [Beautiful.]
  • “Reading important because if you cant read you can get lost, if you cant read signs” [From my new kid.  Truth, sir.  Lost in more than one way.]
  • “Reading is very fun.  You can be flying, dancing with an life size toy, and you can drive in a car.” [From a kid who is mostly calm for me at the beginning of the day, but has a reputation for being Crazy for hours 2-6.]
  • “Never forget you will always use reading no matter how old or bored you get.” [Amen.]
  • “Reading is fun*”  “*Yes really.” [I love the footnote.]
  • “Reading is so important while your young because, you cant learn to read when your older.  Well you could but it would be a little bit harder.” [Oh my goodness she's so wise.  A kid who turned herself into a new human being this week, with a little help from a cookies and cream ice cream bribe from our science teacher and lots of good phone calls home.]
  • “Reading is fun because you use words that you have never used and you can use your imagination from words like BAM, pop, crack, and other words like that that use creative words and it acouragess [sic] you to write a story yourself.” [I love that they love onomatopoeia.]
  • “Well because you can make cool mental images of what your reading.  Its like a never ending movie.” [Thank you!]
  • “Reading is fun because sometimes it could safe [sic] your life like if there’s a fire and you can’t read than you won’t see the word Exit to Exit a fire if you can’t read the exit.” [I love this, because one of the first things I could read was a "taxi" sign in 30th Street Station.  I drove my mother crazy by reading every single "taxi" sign in the entire building to her, one after another.]
  • “Between you and me, reading might be one of the only things making me be one of the smartest people in my class.” [Oh honey, there are more things than that making you one of the smartest people in your class.]
  • “You will have to read to get a job.” [Truth.]
  • And my favorite, from a child who is gifted but incredibly resistant: “Reading is everything.”

I promise that next week I’ll be back to hilarious Disney metaphors and humorous self-deprecation.  But, “Reading is everything,” was something too beautiful for me to keep to myself.

One Response

  1. Tara

    You MUST check out the book The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. Trust me. :)

    Info on the book here: http://www.josseybass.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0470372273.html

    She also has a blog (that I haven’t read yet… just googled): http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/book_whisperer/

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Teaching by the arch

Region
St. Louis
Grade
Middle School
Subject
English

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