Must come to an end.
“She taught me this above all else: things which don’t shift and grow are dead things.”
“There are balances and harmonies always shifting, always necessary to maintain…It is a matter of transitions, you see; the changing, the becoming must be cared for closely.”
from Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony
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.
Two years ago, I sat at my desk after getting on Twitter, and wondered how it was I could make reading books into a “career,” so to speak. I knew nothing about book blogging. I didn’t realize what a boon Twitter—and the connections I made on it—would be for me as a teacher, editor, book lover, and, as I’ve finally admitted, writer.
Today, some crazy sh*t happened on Twitter. Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You, tweeted a request that teachers not “assign students to email an author and ask questions” because “It’s not fair to us or them.” Much inappropriateness ensued, with “outraged” people tweeting things like, “Oh good, another author to not bother reading” and other such nonsense about “duty,” discouraging kids, and her being selfish for not responding.
So on Monday I posted my teaching “vision statement” as a way of sharing more of what I’m like as a teacher. That is, after all, my “first” career, with editing and book blogging being my secondary ones.
In an attempt to build community and allow the kids to know even more about us, my co-teacher and I allowed them to ask questions of us. They were allowed to do so anonymously, and then we chose some to answer in front of the class. I compiled their questions into a list (because that’s the organized type of person I am), and I’m posting them here. Why? Well, because their questions constitute yet another reason why I teach, especially the one in bold. Hope you enjoy!
I’ve answered this question a lot, and the way it’s phrased varies depending on who’s doing the asking. Family members and friends usually preface their question by saying, “I don’t know how you do it.” Students ask, and it’s often framed as “Miss, why do you teach US?”
This year, I’m co-teaching with my best friend (who posted her teaching vision statement on her blog last year), and part of our community building is to share our vision statements with our shared class.
Admittedly, I balked at first. I figure students will learn soon enough why I’m here and what my hope is for them. Plus, I am not the touchy-feely sort of teacher (or person, really), as will become evident when you read my statement. Also, whenever I hear “vision statement,” my brain goes two ways. I think of a vision quest, which is awesome; but then I also think of nasty educorporations that want to vision statement their way into schools and take them over. So the connotation of the “vision statement” phrase is an interesting and conflicted one for me.
At any rate, I wrote one to share with my students. And since sometimes I do post about teaching on here, I figured it was the perfect time to share with the world in general why I teach. So, without any further ado, here is why I teach.
I don’t post a lot about teaching; mostly I post about books and reading.
But I was thinking today about the practicalities of teaching. The things that people do not bring up in teacher training courses. And I figured I would take some time to write about the things that have saved me—literally or figuratively—for the past seven years.
I remembered that, instead of teaching my period first class like I always do, I would instead be running an “infrastructure trial” for the upcoming state test.
During class last week, I showed students how to break down practice AP Language and Composition argumentative essay prompts. The one I used to model for them was an excerpt from a speech in King Lear.