Friday, April 17, 2009

Rethinking Reading Education

I have spent a great deal of time since starting my Master's research thinking about how I teach.  I don't hear an overwhelming number of complaints from students when I walk through the halls and haven't yet had my car keyed, so I don't think I suck.  

But I am not happy with what I've done the last two years. I think, if I'm truly being honest with myself, that I've really been a good teacher to about a third of my students. 

For those students who knew they were on the path for college before they hit third grade, the way I've been teaching is fine.  I assign reading, they do the reading because it is assigned, we talk about it, write about it, sometimes test it and move on.   

Then I have the third or so who will probably go to college because they're pretty sure it will be okay.  I bet about half of them will graduate.  Others will start college, realize that it is harder than high school and see what other avenues the world has to offer them.  I bet about half of these end up going back to college because their other plans just weren't working out.  Some will even find something they are really passionate about, work to get to the degree to get to the passion and be happy.

But then I have my students who really haven't been that successful in school, let alone an English class, for many years.  They come, they participate in whatever is of interest to them.  Most of them will do just enough to not fail because they don't want to do English any more than necessary.  The last book they remember reading that was "good" had Seuss as an author, they don't understand what I'm trying to get them to read or how it will help them when they go to work the day after graduation on a job site, in a shop or with the job corps.  They ask why they need to read Huck Finn or write a research paper.  It just doesn't apply to the life they see their parents living or the life they plan on living.  

These are the kids I have been focusing on.  These are the kids who I would just like to see find some satisfaction in reading.  Anything.  These are the kids I have failed.  

Failing these kids stops this year.  

I am going away from teaching a certain book.  Instead, I'm going to teach themes.  Say I have my AP bound, trying to get as much college credit as they can while still in high school.  They should read Huck Finn.  The second third?  Some other book that also deals with the theme of slavery in America, but is more YA type.  The third third something that touches on slavery, but has a very compelling and easy to read story.  

That's my summer plan - to finish my novel and redesign a curriculum.  And, somehow, find the money to get the books to really be able to teach in the way I should.

And that's just the reading part - I'm completely redesigning the writing part as well :)


Erin said...

Let me know about the writing part - I'm really curious about that one! I think I suck as a writing teacher in general, not even taking into account that I have so many different levels of students to teach to! I feel like I have the literature thing down...but that's where I feel my strength is so that should be down by now. There are so many literature/reading seminars and classes and trainings, and fewer but worthwhile creative writing seminars and trainings. But I don't think I have ever been invited to or seen information about seminars and trainings on expository writing, not to mention practical and not so theory based that the application of it still out of reach. So let me know. Truly.

Janyece said...

It sounds like an amazing plan. I hope you really can find a way to teach everyone what they need. I love that you're trying. Way to go!