I’m a sophomore in college. School has always been what I excel in, so naturally, I’ll be graduating a semester early. Sometimes I put a lot of pressure on myself. And even more times, I take on too much at once, but still manage to get it all done (and done to the best of my ability). I’ve always been proud of my accomplishments. And I have always had that “go-getter” attitude. It probably drives some people nuts, but it really is like a disease.
I’m telling you this because I made a decision last semester that altered my career. I decided it was time to change my major. I was on the path to become a Secondary English Teacher. I wanted to mentor students, be a role model, teach them about my passion of literature and literacy, and recommend all of my favorite books to them! BUT all of this stopped one day when I realized I didn’t like the education world I was going to enter in to. It took me a long time to make this decision. I tossed it up, rolled it around, even bounced it off the walls of my brain for SEVERAL weeks.
It came down to the fact that I couldn’t handle not being able to do what I wanted in the classroom. I didn’t want my students to ever feel pressured and get anxiety about all of these exams they take like I did in high school. I didn’t want my students to have an education that didn’t mean anything to them, or that they weren’t passionate about like so many students I know. I wanted education to be more, and I knew there was going to be no possible way I could perfect and teach at the level I would have wanted to.
So with that in mind, I stepped down from what I thought I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I stepped down because I knew I would feel like a failure for so many students if I couldn’t change the way literature was being taught. And I knew I couldn’t handle that task as a perfectionist, when there was so much work to be done (because I also want other things in life… like a family of my own).
This all came flooding back to my mind after reading Jim Bailey’s Curing the Reading Germ. He was in the same exact position as I was in not too long ago, except he was already in the classroom. If you read the steps he took, he was able to make a change! I’m so thankful for teachers like him, that can stand up against the “teaching norms” and do what is best for students.
I in no way have regretted my decision, but I do recognize the effort put in by so many teachers across the nation that want to make English classrooms better.
From my online reading this week, I’ve learned to appreciate the innovative thinking that so many people have and every motivator in the classroom. For example, I loved the fact that Bailey recognized that “AR” reading wasn’t cutting it for students (because it’s definitely not) and he decided to do a “40-book challenge”. I can’t stress it enough how important it is to allow students to choose what they are reading because it motivates them to actually ENJOY reading. AR doesn’t let them choose, AR tells them what they should be reading and how much they should be reading.
Literacy is all about connection between literature and the reader. That connection, motivates students to continue reading. That’s what should be happening in our classrooms all around the world. When students excel in reading, they tend to excel everywhere else, too. That’s why life with books is just so much better.
Even though teaching wasn’t the path for me, under my best judgement, I’m glad that there are innovators out there. I’m glad that I know there are resources dedicated for teachers who want to find different methods of teaching.
I looked at the way a lot of classrooms are taught today during my observation hours, and none of them stressed enough on reading and the benefits of a good reader. And actually, my hometown elementary school has practically done away with showing any importance at all towards reading. It breaks my heart, but no one can change the way things are being taught except us. We need to be the good examples for young people.
Today, it’s important for us to let our kids, students, nephews, nieces, etc… to know the benefits and values of picking up a book and enjoying the process of reading. It’s important for us to raise kids to love to read. The only way I see this working is if we allow young kids to pick out books they want.
START THEM YOUNG PEOPLE.
Take them to the bookstore. Give them space and time to roam through the shelves to choose what book they want to read. This will encourage them to continue to build this habit for the rest of their life.
I’m sorry, this post went a little long. This is just something that I’m really passionate about. Books are meant to be enjoyed. Plain and simple. So everyone, for the love of books, choose what you WANT to read.