Twice in our end-of-year Language Arts circle in June, teachers said they were going to use the summer to figure out who they were. One said she was going to figure out who she was when she’s not here, because the last school year had hollowed her out. The other said she needed space to remember who she is again.
As I sat and listened (because I hardly ever share much of significance, being the private person I am), I thought of the quote from The Tumbling Turner Sisters, a book I was reading at the time: “There’s something to that…What you have when you’re just you.”
In Juliette Fay’s The Tumbling Turner Sisters, Gert and Winnie Turner narrate the tragedies and triumphs of their lives, and everything in between. Fay’s gorgeous prose lends itself to this touching story of the four Turner girls, their mother Ethel and father Frank, and the extended family they acquire as they take the stage during the vaudeville era.
My awesome friend Mary does my hair, and when we were talking about an upcoming publication of one of my poems, and another poem I’d just started about my daughter, she asked me, “Heather, when do you write, seriously?”
In Constance Coopers Guile, Yonie Watereye makes a living as a “pearly,” a person who can sense magic, or “Guile,” in objects and people. The catch is that the real pearly is her slybeast cat, LaRue, who, after nearly being drowned as a kitten, developed the ability to not only sense guile, but talk.
First of all, David, we call them our “kids,” not “teen-agers.” Yes, some of us may be parents apart from being teachers, but the “us” I’m referring to in this case is their teachers. Yes, we are the “most maligned and ignored professionals in American life.” So it’s interesting to me that you also chose to ignore the people who could have—and likely would have gladly—provided you with insight into what teenagers are actually reading.
You are right in that “The good [teachers] are not sheepish or silent in defense of literature and history and the rest.” So I’m going to tell you that you’re wrong. Teens read seriously. They read for purpose. They read for ideas. They read for knowledge. But most importantly, THEY READ.