The End Is Near

The end is near.
For eleven years I’ve been lucky enough to walk into a classroom and love my job. Even on bad days when my students are whiny, my staff misses deadlines and teenagers drive me berserk, in the back of my mind I know I’m lucky.
How many people love what they do?
I sometimes forget how much I love what I do.
This year’s been trying to say the least. A new schedule made it seem like I was on deadline all the time. Writing was something I dreamed about and played at but never really did much of. Over night my biological on time switched to off. In the olden days (read: last year), I could stay up and write from 10-2. It was marvelous the way the muse hit and words poured from my fingers onto the keyboard and across the screen. I’d click my Playlist to Evanescence of AirSupply and off I’d go on a journey to whatever new country I’d created.
This year 10 hit and I was beyond exhausted. By 9 my eyelids would start to weigh down, my eyes burned. I’d try coffee, my old secret weapon, but even that didn’t work. For seven years coffee had inspired me to write. Now nothing could. Not even chocolate. Not even the knowledge that someone else had sold. I was just too tired.
But that was then.
I plan on erasing those wordless months next week.
And next year I’m shifting gears in the newsroom. My kids are going to write and they’re going to read and they’re going to read some more.
For years I’ve been preaching the virtues of voracious reading, but I haven’t really done anything to make sure it happens in my classroom.
I realize now that’s essential. Not only to them but to me. To my writer’s soul.
It’s going to be war.
You wouldn’t think it would be since the majority of my students are honors kids who make 5s on their AP Lit tests. But this year I’ve realized most of my students don’t read anything more taxing than Lucky or Cosmo when it comes to entertainment. They read the old dead white men when they have to just because their teachers tell them they must. They tell me, and they’re quite proud of this fact, that they hate reading. That their love for reading was destroyed right around the time of seventh or eighth grade when they were forced to read Frankenstein and analyze it for figurative language.
Yeah. I would’ve hated reading too.
Not that Frankenstein is a bad book. Mary Shelley’s bio. would’ve been enough for me to read the book in awe and terror, but when kids are forced to read for grades and no one’s encouraging them to read for pleasure, a problem starts and festers until suddenly I’m stuck with a classroom filled with kids who can analyze the heck out of style, can tell you all about figurative language and what the author meant to do, can write one awesome paper, but ask them the last good book they read and the look at you with blank stares until one of them whispers, “Did you just say good?”
I know I can’t undo years of I HATE READING mentality in all of my kids. But I’m going to do my best. Sure some of my students will still read the classics, but hopefully some of them will pick up some newer authors. I can’t wait to share Isabelle Allende and Rudolfo Anaya and Andre Breton and Rick Reilly (the BEST writer in America in my opinion) and Mary Higgins Clark and Janet Evanovich and Meg Cabot with them.
My students have already been warned. They know a reading revolution is brewing in the newsroom. I saw a girl surreptitiously checking out my Princess Diaries book the other day, so the first shot’s been fired.
I love my job now. I think I’ll love it more soon.

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3 responses to “The End Is Near

  1. Reblogged this on A Writer's Life and commented:

    It’s been nine years since I wrote this post. Hard to believe. Funny how for a couple years, I pushed reading again. And then I stopped. Funny how I was freaked out over the 7-period, three prep day and what it meant. HA! I had no idea. This year’s 8-period day, five prep day is going to be challenging, but I’m going to remember this post. Reading is essential to a quality education.

  2. Okay, in what manner do you plan to incorporate what types of reading on your news staff? I’m with you, just looking for a plan. I want to motivate, encourage with all my classes as well. I’ve heard the similar “why I hate reading” explanation too many times. It has to change. And journalists need new avenues for story ideas and good examples of writing that aren’t assigned, but are just kind of expected. Like, reading is just what we do.

    • Hey Lisa! For the two years I did this intentionally, I had a library of books and we would have “book talks” every week. I had a combination of fiction like The Time Traveler’s Wife and non-fiction like Reading Lolita in Tehran. The kids traded books they liked. It was fun. Everyone didn’t participate, but most did.
      The key was being intentional and NOT assigning a grade. No tests, just talk. With GoodReads students can get recommendations and share reviews. We can incorporate reviews on our website.
      It’s an idea. It worked before. Of course, we have an extra class now and a lot less time and I teach two more preps so being intentional will be a bit more work than it was before.

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