"A Reader Lives A Thousand Lives Before He Dies. The Man Who Never Reads Lives Only One."
...George R. R. Martin
It has been several years since I have been in my own classroom, and I must admit that I miss the way teaching used to be. I loved coming up with new and creative ways to make readers out of non-readers. Spending time in the library finding the perfect book for each child was always an adventure, and showing my students how words could transport them to places they might never see was a challenge I met with enthusiasm.
The slow erosion of creativity in the classroom precipitated the slow erosion of my career as a teacher. I, who used to jump out of bed each morning with a million ideas for a day of learning, could barely think of facing the day. Teaching "to the test" took away all ability to teach "to the student." After a day spent teaching:
- What is the main idea of this story
- What is the best title for this story
- What was the author's purpose for the story
Two things happened on the day I knew I had to leave the profession I loved. Before school my department head explained that Julius Caesar was being removed from the tenth grade curriculum because the county said it took too much time away from learning test requirements. Shakespeare had become a distraction. Next, I walked into my classroom that morning and saw a bunch of zombie looking kids nervously awaiting another practice state assessment test. I flashed back to entering my classroom in a previous year and overhearing a debate between several students about what message Shakespeare was trying to deliver when he had Caesar ignore his wife's warning on the morning of his death. I realized at that moment I was no longer opening doors for my students. I was now being forced to put stumbling blocks in the road to the thousand lives they could be living.
I was a good teacher who loved my profession and loved your children. Many of us turned and left rather than continue to foster this fear of learning. I tell you this today because education seems to be getting lost in the rhetoric that is politics today. As parents, grandparents and future parents we need to make sure that we elect officials who will see beyond the test and into the hearts of our children. We need to pay as much attention to our candidates for the senate/house, and make sure that they know we expect our students to get a rounded education that teaches them that there is beauty as well as function in the world they are inheriting. We need to bring excitement back into the classrooms and reintroduce books as a gift instead of just a means to an end.
This week's books served as "gifts" for me. I enjoyed P.C. Zick's journal, From Seed To Table: Growing , Harvesting, Cooking and Preserving Food, very much. She takes the reader through a year of her life as a gardener. She and her husband grow much of their own food and give the reader tips as the book progresses. The book is written in the style of a blog and really held my interest.
My fictional adventure for the week was the first book in a series that I will most definitely follow. An Eye For Murder: the Ellie Foreman Mystery Series #1 by Libby Fischer Hellman is a great book for those who like history and suspense tied up in an exciting adventure that will have you shivering and smiling on the same page. Ellie is a charming protagonist and Hellman knows how to tell a great story.
As always, complete reviews of these books follow this blog.