Skip to main content

Teachers: Don't Kill MOCKINGBIRD

I just finished reading Paul Acampora's I Kill the Mockingbird. When I first picked this book up, I thought it would be a book for youth, but I'm starting to think this is a book for teachers.

The premise is simple: A beloved teacher dies, and soon-to-be freshmen Lucy, Elena, and Michael vow to keep his appreciation of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird alive in the face of a mandatory summer reading list, of which Lee's novel is one of many possible titles. They want to inspire others to love the book, so they develop a plan that basically follows the rule of supply and demand: if they make it seem as if fewer copies of Mockingbird are available, people will obviously seem interested in the book. (I learned this economics lesson growing up when I may or may not have wanted a Furby.)

In English class, I wish helping students see the beauty that is Lee's work was that easy. While I still search for ways to bring all students to the page (that was my nErDcampMI session and if you have ideas, please share them with me!), the novel did serve as a good reminder about summer reading lists.

I'm thankful that I work in a district that doesn't issue a summer reading list--especially one chockfull of difficult texts from the canon. Those books are tough, and we give students a false idea of what it means to be a reader when we hand them something they are unprepared for, expect them to read it independently, and then return to face a test in the fall. This practice is akin to my dislike of the "packet reading" that students all too often endure.

I think it was in Deeper Reading that Kelly Gallagher presented the idea that teachers are like literary docents. We are students' guides to reading complex works as we work to help them build the skills that will enable them to make meaning with all texts independently. But if there's one thing that I know about my own summer reading plans, it's that I want choice. I have a mix of professional books and young adult/adult literature that I plan to read, but it certainly wasn't dictated. Perhaps we should, instead, move students to develop their own to-read lists for the summer and then assist in the acquiring of library cards before students leave our classrooms.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Finding Words

I get to school early and my students know that. This morning, a student that I’m not even particularly close with arrived at 6:00 AM in tears. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to figure out what to say to students and colleagues about the presidential election.
This student and I talked about fear. We talked about her history. We talked about how she encouraged her mother to vote for the first time—ever. We talked about how she can’t understand why people would vote for a fear-mongering, hate-talking candidate like Donald Trump. We talked about her experience Monday seeing President Obama for the first time, an experience that she was so motivated to make happen. Toward the end of our conversation, she said that she finally finished Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Not that I’m equating President-Elect Trump to the Dark Lord, but we talked about how even with Voldemort, people supported him. It may have been out of fear and group loyalty, but it was support nonetheless. And whil…

Letter to the Editor Regarding DeVos

***Update:  At the time this letter was read at Monday’s board meeting, the hearing regarding Betsy DeVos’ nomination as the secretary of education was still scheduled for Wednesday, January 11. Later that evening, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions postponed the hearing until January 17 at 5:00 PM.

This is a letter to the editor that I will submit for the January 12 edition of the Belleville-Area Independent
-----
To the Editor:
This week marks a defining moment for public education in the United States. On Wednesday, January 11, a hearing will have taken place regarding Betsy DeVos’ nomination as the secretary of education.
During the past few board meetings, I have expressed my concerns publicly about Mrs. DeVos’ appointment to the top education post, and I reiterate those same concerns here. I have contacted Senator Stabenow and Peter’s offices, and they both have now expressed their concerns regarding this appointment and have vowed to…

On Competition and Donald Trump, Jr.

Listening to Donald Trump, Jr.’s speech makes my blood boil.
There are a few points that need our attention.
1. Competition makes education better.
Browse Diane Ravitch’s blog post about the competition that has run rampant in Detroit Public Schools. She references Donald Cohen’s post, where he debunks the myth about competition increasing student achievement. Cohen concludes the following: “If charter schools were systematically outperforming DPS schools, these lessons would be easier to stomach in Detroit. But the city’s charter schools are rife with wasteful spending, double dipping, and insider dealing, and many have been allowed to operate for years despite terrible academic records.”
And let us not forget the Detroit Free Pressexposé on charter schools. Many do not disclose how they spend public dollars, and the majority underperformed when compared to traditional public schools. Quoting the Free Press, public dollars were misused in ways such as: A Bedford Township charter sc…