I am at the end of another week trying to ramp myself up for the next one. )I imagine that I resemble one of those toy cars that you have to pull back a few times before it will leap forward again for the amusement of all.) I have a huge amount of stuff to do and a myriad of information to cram into my head. I’m just trying to figure out where to start.
I know that I have gotten lazy about my writing, at least from a critical perspective. I have taken the time to browse through a few of the test prep books for the tests I will be taking late this summer. (I have also taken the time to shriek and demand to know what twisted administrator decided to create a test that evaluates skills that have absolutely no practical applications.) I am forcing myself to embrace the reality with exactly the same enthusiasm that one would have if being forced to hug a relative with halitosis at a family reunion while everyone else scrutinizes your behavior for future reference.
When I write, I like to actually have something to say and I tend to get balky when forced to write in a vacuum (It’s really dusty in there.) so I am going to use my actual classroom experiences in my responses to essay prompts. It’s going to get weird.
Last week I subbed half a day in a Bilingual Second Grade classroom. I knew it was going to be a fantastic day when the first person I saw was the woman who taught me in Kindergarten. (She works there, I was not hallucinating a comforting face before a challenging day, although that does sound like something I would do.)
Highlights of the day include a small child asking me if my name was Lynda when I was a little girl. I told her that it was still my name. She looked confused and said, “No, your name is Ms. Rodriguez.” A few of the kids wanted to know if I spoke Spanish. I told them I understood it but I don’t speak it well. They decided to give me a vocabulary quiz. They squealed with delight when I got one right. I would learn anything just to hear kids squeal when I got a correct answer. One child was trying to tell me something that was happening at one of the tables in the corner. I couldn’t understand him so I asked him to repeat it. I still didn’t understand so I asked to say it in English. He shouted, “I AM speaking English.” Ms. Rodriguez clearly needs to get her hearing checked.
The kids in this class do a lot of independent reading. (My turn to squeal with delight.) I took this independent reading time to roughly out a formal essay on Children’s Literature. This is based on one of the study questions for the English/Language Arts test: Define Literature. That’s it, that’s the whole question. The answer is to include a concise rundown on the types of literature. I only know this because my sheer panic at the vagueness of this question made me leap to the answer key.
I am still working on the formal essay, but the basic information I gleaned from the classroom is that literature written specifically for the enjoyment of children is a relatively new idea. Beverly Cleary was a trailblazer in this area. Now we have Junie B. Jones, Judy Moody, Amber Brown and a host of other characters. (I have no idea why most of the protagonists of these books are female; that will be another essay.)
The Little House books are a fine example of Historical Fiction and World Literature can be represented by The Wheel on the School and Hans Brinker. (Although when was the last time you saw an elementary school kid deeply engrossed in the story of the sliver skates?) Folk tales and Fairy tales are an excellent example of the oral tradition and Aesop’s Fables provide allegory as do the Berenstain Bears.
I am terrible at writing concluding paragraphs. The conclusion that I drew actually opened the Pandora’s box of questions. Why do we stop encouraging children to read for fun? Instilling and maintaining a love of learning will lead to students who have an investment in their own educations.
I personally hope that Twilight’s drekery didn’t wring out all of the interest in literature in a whole generation of young people .