Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Read, Read, Read......

My teaching job pays the bills and I would love to write full time. But I do love those teenagers. What I hate, as do many of my peers, is the endless paperwork and dare I say it, INSERVICE. So today was our first inservice day and our district scheduled a speaker for the entire day. Now we've had these before and let me say everyone was a waste of money. I've been dreading it since I received the schedule. I took some magazines to the auditorium and a few other little pieces of work to occupy myself. We all did. I never looked at it.
This speaker dazzled us. Finally a person talking about education and using common sense at the same time. A speaker with data compiled by Bill Gates Educational Programs and not any teachers' union or political animal. What did we learn? America is falling behind countries like China and India. Their students spend nearly twice the hours in school than ours. Our students are some of the best readers in the world in fourth grade and fall to around 50th by the time they're in high school. Why?
It's a complex problem but a lot of it is related to our schools inability to change. I've been teaching for over twenty years and it is really the same. New names are given the same old methods.
I'm also a parent and want my children to be getting all the education they can. How can I see that happen? Something I learned to day; push technology use in your school and encourage it in your home. And make sure they read. Read. Read. Read.
As a writer, the more readers the better. As a parent, the more readers at my house, the better.


  1. I used to teach English at a program for at-risk adolescents who'd been kicked out of traditional schools for one reason or another. So many of those kids (ages 13-18) just weren't readers. Not even a little bit. It was really sad sometimes. I did manage, though, to turn a couple of them on to reading by the time they left me for their next schools. With any luck, it stuck.

    My fourteen year old niece, however, is a voracious reader. She can't get enough...always gives us something to talk about.

  2. My son currently works with at risk students and he keeps a selection of his favorite scifi books to try and interest them.
    Enjoy your niece. My daughter is like that and we talk books all the time.

  3. The problem when I was in high school is the same problem now--they make us read crap! My daughter, a freshman starting Monday, wanted to get a head start on the year, so she read Romeo and Juliet (liked it), Great Expectations (it was okay), and Tale of Two Cities (hated it, because he rambled on and on about tedious, boring stuff, burying the good story in junk) this summer. She had to force herself to read three chapters a day, and was so relieved when she could stop. And what did she do when she stopped? Read MODERN stuff.

    There are plenty of current books out there that can generate the kinds of discussions and writing exercises they use with the classics. Assign papers on family dynamics in the Twilight saga or the theme of death in Harry Potter, and I GUARANTEE you'll revolutionize the process!

    Gee, I think that's a hot-button topic with me. LOL

  4. I completely agree with you, Natalie. And so much of the stuff they have to read is not only old but written by authors whose outlook on life and its meaning is so skewed they can only write as if every character is suffered some kind of psychosis. It's so difficult to get school to change what they're doing.

  5. Ughhh...just typed a whole comment here and then it blanked and lost whole thing!!!

    In this month's issue of Wired mag there is an article about how important Tech is for schools and how much it helps. They interview a guy who used to work for the Bill Gates project that started his own Charter High School using major Tech in all classes and has a %100 Grad rate & %100 go to college - "good" colleges. I can't find the article online but the mag is: WIRED MAGAZINE: ISSUE 17.09
    It's worth picking up for that article alone but there are some other great ones in there too. Note: I do not work for or know anyone at Wired. I just love the mag.

  6. Oh and one more thing - Awesome thing many of the teachers down here (in Miami, FL) are doing is allowing kids (particularly Middle School) to read Manga style books - classics redone in a style of reading the children like. It gets them reading. My 13 yr old only likes to read non-fiction (weird, I know)and for the most part her teachers are very accepting (luckily) and allowing that. My 17 yr old is in AP English and her teacher (who I think is awesome) is letting the kids read almost anything they want and having them review it - it just has to be college level read so far as concepts. I think it's a great idea. More teachers should take these approaches and more kids would read. Of course all of the above are NOT approved by the school board which is a shame because if caught these inovative teachers will be in trouble.

  7. You are so right about getting kids to read by giving them choices they like. I know in our school the one teacher let her kids read 'The Hunger Games.' Now tons of them are eager to read the second book which came out earlier this week. More teachers need to do this.