The endless expanse of days to read and reflect and write are tightening up.
Once school starts my reading time will be curtailed.
I remember when I decided to go into teaching one of my biggest concerns was the disturbance of my reading life. I was fearful that my adult reading would disintegrate into kid lit.
I had no clue.
I was correct about my adult reading life. It withered. And I mourn the loss from time to time. But there are aspects of my current reading life that have changed me in profound ways. The more I learn how to teach a reader or a writer to read like a writer, the more I discover about my reading and writing life. Now it seems obvious, but at the beginning of my teaching journey, I had no idea. Discovering how reading and writing works is a passion I pursue willingly and at personal cost because it fascinates me.
I reflect on this because of a dinner conversation.
My high schooler was “asked” to read two books over the summer, Hamlet and Siddartha. My teacher self had to ask, what if you were given choice in this rather than being assigned a text.
She assured me she preferred the assigned books and would probably not have read any book over the summer if she had a choice. After some inquiry, her bottom line was that there would be no accountability for choice so she would not do it. With assigned books, there would be a discussion and a test. If it were a choice, she could just say she read a book.
I sat there. Taken aback. I had felt bad for her being assigned a text such as Hamlet without any instruction. But come to find out work that is assigned is in her comfort zone. Being required to do something with a test connected to it, motivated her.
“High school is not like elementary school,” she said. “It’s about points and tests. How can a teacher give you a grade without a test?”
My daughter is but one student on her journey. The lack of reading and choice disturbs me. The lack of instruction with a text like Hamlet shocks me. But what gets to me at my core is the training of students to be motivated by a grade. I realize that is our educational culture that reflects our society to some degree.
This accepted matter of fact way school goes worries me.
When I think back to my high school days, I was just like my daughter. I was assigned books. I didn’t read unless I was asked to. My reading life came to me after formal schooling. That’s when I embraced choice and became a reader and a learner. That was my path. I believe/hope this will happen for her as well. She is much more than just a grade and can do so much more than the assignment.
But this stance in education this treatment reading and learning worries me. An environment that only asks our students, especially high school students, to do as assigned to pass a test worries me. Does choice and active learning only exist in elementary school? Is this “do the assignment and take a test” the way of secondary education? Or is this just my slice of life?
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers Blog for this community of readers, writers, and learners. Read more slices here.