06 August 2014


  This summer has been about the reader in me, and I am finally relaxing into it. No PD, no concerted effort to read in a certain direction. I am just reading. And it is proving again that reading is a creative act. Feeling that truth in my bones is changing how I think about my teaching, even as I try to ignore August 18 looming. Right now, I am reading 4 books on 3 different platforms, so I am learning about whatever each book is about at the same time that I am learning about what difference the platform makes.
   Any Bernard Cornwell book about soldier Richard Sharpe moves fast through action and plot, so they work well on my Audible--and getting through a workout is so much easier. But reading Hild in hardback, I move at an uneven pace. I stop to revel in the mise en scene. You can do that easily in a printed book. To close a book gives one such power. I have to remember that when I am teaching Chaucer, and all they can think about is closing the book. They deserve the power.
   So what will I do with this understanding, since 75% of what my students will read this year will be decided by me? Choice is critical, I know, but the content area is British Lit, and I make no apologies for foisting Shakespeare and Swift on them. If teachers had not pushed me into reading things I would not have chosen myself, I would have missed some of the highlights of my reading life. Easy to say now--even as I remember how nonsensical I thought Bleak House was with its never-ending Jarndyce v Jarndyce. I got it, alright? Thank God I didnot live in the Victorian era with all its injustice. After 100 pages, even, and then I had to read another 700. Sheesh. Even this lover of Dickens struggled.
   But what I learned was that I could defeat Bleak House, and that sometimes the act of getting all the way through a tough book was power.  I owned that book and all that was in it, even the parts that the author did not know about, since as the reader, I had control. So I know that some of the kids in AP Lit are not going to like A Tale of Two Cities, but I am also sure they will have exactly what they need to judge the novel genre every time they read a new novel. And they will decide what they love when they read: is it all about plot for them, or does Dickens' multitasking through setting, character and theme help them see the complexity of life in a different way? And I do not think I will be able to abandon The Secret Agent after our conversation of the gray areas in corporate spy life experienced by Verloc this past year. All of a sudden, the air exited the room, a sign that something important was happening. What? Hannah, Luke, Jake all began to comment on what kind of person Verloc was, how all his insignificant choices added up to a picture of him that was... well, not what they wanted in a protagonist. But somehow, his weakness seemed to focus them on Conrad's purpose in a much more efficient way than I had planned. How we see ourselves and who we really are became the day's question, not "how did Conrad build his environment?" or "what do you think of Verloc's murder at the hands of Winnie?" It was about us. Exactly what I wanted.
   Many questions still remain to be answered in this journey to free reading PLUS planned reading. Changing my reading list so that it does not include 90% "old white guys" is an ongoing battle--I did not win this year. Reading A Tale for the Time Being, We Need New Names, and Hild energized my quest to balance the old and new. My reading lists will be changing as I wend my way through this last year of my present AP reading list. And British Lit? Well, it has the best old white guys, for sure, but the more I tip it to contemporary texts, the happier I will be. One year at a time. One book at a time (except during the summer). I am going to go read.

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