For the month of November, I’ll be re-entering the High School English classroom. (As a substitute teacher, this time). Because I’ll be there for longer than a day or two; and because I’m doing this for a friend who cares deeply about his students and their education (and don’t we wish we could say this of every teacher?); and because if I’m going to do something, I might as well do it well; I am reading/re-reading all the of homework assignments for the eight classes.
“Well, you read all the time,” you may say.
Yes. Yes, I do. However, this kind of reading–homework reading, assigned, focused, need to extrapolate (to project, extend, or expand known data or experience) and remember details kind of reading is a skill that requires practice. I haven’t been practicing. It is exhausting–and exhilarating.
So, you might have read this book?
And, now I have too. On a personal level, reading this book helped me realize the opportunities and “luck” I’ve experienced, through no effort or merit of my own that have helped to bring me to where I am. It has inspired me to greater discipline and work.
However, because I am thinking of those students, I also have contemplated the mix of social, cultural, familial, and personal nature (with a little time/place/opportunity mixed in) that is each person’s experience. I ask how can I help to either nurture and build on this or overcome and retrain to help each become an outlier.
Likewise, re-reading Antigone, Oedipus, and Frankenstein is a different experience. I’m sure this is, in great measure, because I’m older and have experienced a little more than at first reading. Part of it, though, is that my purpose is different. You’ve noticed, I’m sure, that when you prepare to teach, you learn much more than you’ll ever be able to teach. It’s a different way of reading and of thinking.
And reading these 50 essays, thinking about the turbulent, emotionally and intellectually, senior year is different than reading for my own growth and enjoyment, although that is also enriching. These writers each come from different times, places, cultures, experiences. There is nothing like looking at life through someone else’s eyes.
High School, again–it is like going back in time. However, this reading/preparing has started or accelerated a thoughtful, learning, growing that is an exciting step forward.
What have you read recently that has brought memories of the past or changed you and added to your growth?