Should I abandon this book or stick it out? Why do some people abandon books while others refuse? How do I coach my students through reading grit and endurance and helping them to understand that it's okay to not like a book you read when I regularly abandon books I'm not enjoying?
These are questions I've been struggling with for quite some time, but tonight I think I stumbled upon some beginning of an answer and I'm wondering if it makes sense to anyone but me.
This summer, I was given the opportunity to work with the company behind a new platform for engaging and interactive online reading for students. The platform (and company) is Actively Learn and you should totally check it out. One of the blog posts I'm writing for them is about reading strategies in the real world, so I was thinking about what reading strategies I actually use as a reader outside of the classroom. This lead into thinking about teaching reading strategies in my classroom, which lead to thinking about how I want to start the school year, which reminded me that I wanted to have a more heavy emphasis on setting a purpose for reading this year.
At the beginning of the last school year, I spent time talking with students about why we read to set a purpose for the entire school year but for some reason (#newbieteacherproblems) that didn't translate into having students think about their purpose for reading something for the rest of the school year.
And somewhere in this line of thinking it hit me: Whether or not we choose to abandon books depends entirely on what our purpose is for reading them.
A friend, who is actively pursuing her life as a writer, reads books primarily for the purpose of making herself aware of the kinds of books that are already out there, and to study writing craft. As a result, she rarely (never?) abandons books. You can learn just as much about writing craft from terrible books as you can from phenomenal books.
I, a 6th grade Language Arts teacher, pursue most reading outside of school for the purpose of enjoyment. If I'm not liking a book or if I think it's badly written, I quit reading it.
This lead me to consider the numerous texts I was required to read for classes and how my purpose for those was entirely different. I may not have enjoyed the literature review in Chapter 2 but my purpose was to be prepared for class and to investigate why the professor wanted me to read it.
Does our purpose for reading entirely drive our willingness or unwillingness to stop reading? Or is this some nonsensical thought train I've stumbled upon?
In the grad school class I'm currently taking, we read an article about the metaphors applied to teaching as a profession and the harm it does to both teachers and the world of Education as a whole. The primary focus of the article was "teacher as saint" and all of the implications of that, including the idea that teachers do their job out of love and therefore do not need to be monetarily compensated, and that there is no actual expertise required.
However, a slightly less explored topic in the article was the idea of "teacher as mother". This metaphor follows the same vein as "teacher as saint" due to the cultural expectations of sacrifice in motherhood. It even went so far as to quote Virginia Woolf's "Killing the Angel in the House" about the societal expectations that place pressures on women to be certain kinds of mothers. In response, a fellow classmate brought up the idea of calling her students her "kids" and whether or not this behavior was a result of the pervasive metaphor.
It has given me some things to think about.
Why do I refer to my students as "my kids". They are certainly not my children. I did not give birth to them and do not wish at this time in my life to have any children of my own. The closest I get to wanting children is truly enjoying parenting stories, especially those that involve children doing completely asinine things. So why am I claiming 85-some children as my own?
Even my colleagues who have multiple children refer to students as their kids, or as "my Lily" or "our Brianna". It's a somewhat strange phenomena if you really think about it. These children have, most of them, parents at home that are loving them. We do not need to claim them. We are not adopting them.
And the only thing I can come up with is that it's a term that is claiming responsibility and showing affection. By calling them "my kids", I am committing to them for the year that they are with me, or perhaps longer. I am committing to riding their emotional waves, celebrating their personal triumphs, and doing everything I know how to do to encourage their growth. I am investing in them.
I especially find this true with students who I continue to be invested in after they have left my class. Kaitlyn, who goes by Katie to nearly everyone else but who has always been Kaitlyn to me out of affection, will always in my mind be "my kid". I still consider myself responsible for her, invested in her, and devoted to helping her navigate her life.
So, while I don't agree with the sacrificial and demeaning implications of the metaphors for teaching that are pervasive in our society, the side-effect, I suppose, of referring to students as "my kids" is one I don't mind at all. I'll definitely continue using the term, as the commitment to the students is one of the most important aspects of teaching and it's one passion I refuse to surrender.