I’ve found myself thinking a lot about relationships lately. I mean a lot. Specifically, the relationships we see in schools: student-student, student-teacher, teacher-parent, teacher-teacher, and how those things all come together to impact student learning (and also how books seem to play an important role in so many of these relationships). I think I may be blogging more about this as I continue to think about and process these thoughts.
Today, I want to share something that happened yesterday. Actually, two things that happened yesterday. We were at the end of midterms, and it was the last test for my students before a 4-day weekend between the semesters.
The first thing that happened is another English teacher came into my room with about 15 minutes to go in the exam period. My students had all finished their tests, and this teacher was delivering the test of a student who took the test in another room. She gave it to me, looked at my students, then said to me, “Wow. Every one is reading. I wish I had a picture of this!” This stuck out to me for a couple reasons. First off: I should take a picture of it (and I did — but don’t have permissions to share here, so just picture a room of high school freshmen reading various books). Secondly: this wasn’t in the least surprising to me or to them. I had spent a semester building up the culture of reading in my classroom, so that I didn’t even have to tell them they should read when they were done (though I did ask a few if they had a book). They just did it. That’s where we are right now, and that makes me really excited for next semester.
The second thing that happened has to do with a student. He grabbed a book that I know is a bit on the mature side, and I thought might have some things that would be a bit much for him, just knowing him as a person and as a reader. So I called him up to my desk.
“Is there something wrong with my test?” he asked as he approached the desk.
“No, that’s not it at all,” I assured him. “I just noticed the book you were reading.”
“Yeah. I know that one’s a bit mature. It contains a bit of foul language as well as some scenes that are a bit more mature than other books you’ve been reading.” I could see he was a bit at ease now that he realized I wasn’t going to tell him he failed the exam he just took, and his demeanor became a bit more relaxed.
“My sister read this one when she was in high school, so I thought I’d take a look at it. I didn’t know much about it.” Now we were just having a conversation about books.
“That’s fine. I just wanted to give you a heads up about it. If you get to something that you’re not comfortable reading yet, you can put it down. You can always come back to it later on, even in a couple years.”
“Yeah, I know.” And here he got much more serious all of a sudden. “Thanks for talking to me about that. Most English teachers wouldn’t have done that.”
Now, I don’t know about his premise: that most English teachers wouldn’t talk with their students about the books they’re reading, in order to try to find the best fit for the student at that moment in time. In fact, most English teachers I know would do just that. But I do know that in his experiences, most English teachers haven’t done that. I’m glad I can be the start of a change of that for him. And more importantly: this small, quick exchange (it took about 45 seconds all together) contributes to a strong foundation for this student and I to continue to discuss books. That’s more than worth the time.