Tuesday, January 02, 2007

In Response

First of all, I've been out of the country for a week, so I have a hell of a job to catch up with everyone's posts.

I just looked at Nani's blog, and saw a couple things that inspired a bit more than leaving little comments.

For one, no fair tagging memes while people are overseas!! :) Also, I'm so freaking open on this stupid blog that I'll actually have to *think* about what y'all don't know about me.

Next, that list of books drew my attention quickly, since I'm such a bookfiend, except I don't have terribly sophisticated taste. I have many 'classic' books on my list, but I don't tend to actually read them. And yes, I do have a list. It is three columns, typed up, in alphabetical order by author, and separated into fiction/nonfiction, and recently I added separate categories for young adult and classic. (And I guess I shouldn't be ashamed that, since I'm a teacher of young adults, I will be much more likely to read those than the classics.) So anyway, I don't really need to make a new list.

These are some of the books that I have on my shelf that I have not read or finished:
Typical American (Gish Jen)
Out of Africa (Isak Dinesen)
Angela's Ashes (Frank McCourt)
Autobiography of Malcolm X (Alex Haley)
Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
Misquoting Jesus (Bart Ehrman)
Lies My Teacher Told Me (James Loewen)
The Opposite of Fate (Amy Tan)
Guns, Germs, and Steel (Jared Diamond)

I have many more books back in Seattle that I have read, and that I have not read--things like Catch-22, .

So seeing a list like Nani's made me want to recommend some books. First, I saw A Prayer for Owen Meany on there--yay! that is one of my favorite books. So is Judith Guest's Ordinary People (I read that several times a year during college). The first teacher memoir book I ever read, back in high school, was The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy. The first huge book I read, also in high school, was Sacajawea by Anna Lee Waldo. Ooh, and Shutterbabe, a memoir of a photojournalist, is an incredible story. And everything by Barbara Kingsolver is a must-read.

...I could go on. But I'll force myself to stop!

Oh, and I have kept a list of all the books I've read since AmeriCorps, and last night I decided that needed to be typed up as well. Still in columns, it's four pages! There are a lot of mindless chick lit or YA books on there, so I can't take myself too seriously. :) I just read a grown-up book, The Monkey Wrench Gang, so that's good.

Next response topic:
Some of this comes with age, for sure but there is also knowledge that comes from exposure to a certain environment, like parents who read a lot and engage their children in thoughtful conversation, provide opportunities for travel, and so on. I would argue, at the risk of seeming politically incorrect, that these are things with which middle class kids grow up, not poor kids.

I think this is exactly the point of teaching in high-needs schools, and the plight affecting urban, nonwhite schools. Parents with lower income have to work longer hours, which means more hours the kid is entertaining himself with video games and less time for stimulating family talk about current events and moral issues; and there is less money for unnecessary but interesting things like travel.

As a white, middle class person, my experience is completely different from that of many of my students'. Often I feel guilty (white guilt! yes, it's real!), but other times I feel glad that I can try to bridge the gap, and if this doesn't sound too condescending, try to encourage them to work hard and succeed, so they can have a good life when they're adults. Isn't that the point of all education, though? To give kids a positive goal to reach for? To let them see the point of the seemingly silly school work and responsibility?

Third topic:
...strategies are not skills; they are simply tricks to aid in comprehension.

Thank you! I was so glad to see an expert say that in the magazine. Because though I hadn't quite put it into words, all the emphasis on 'strategy' bugs the crap out of me. You need to just read! In order to read, you need to spend time READING! Learn and practice reading a BOOK, not taking notes, not using freaking post-its for everything, just reading. I understand that doing those other things can aid in comprehension, and that is extremely important. But again, those things won't help until the children can actually read on their own.

It's the same thing that I was talking about in my ranting post recently. You can't teach a kid eight ways to multiply big numbers until she memorizes the single-digit times table.

1 comment:

Nancy said...

Wow! Three references in one post. Awesome!
Can't wait to see your Am-Dam pics!