Have I mentioned lately that I am not a big fan of being told what to do? Well, I am not. It is in that spirit that I approach teaching the legions of balky, high spirited and clinically quirky children who have made up most of my classes and tutoring clients.
(I realize that being a resident of North Texas I might be ignoring a band wagon and/ or soap box by not speaking about the horrifying events that happened last week leaving scores of people terrorized and five Dallas Police Officers dead, but I am numb and I am trying not to think about it so, instead I’m going to focus on the good parts of last week.)
I am back to tutoring the same two children I worked with last spring. I am reading the Phantom Tollbooth with one and A Little Princess with the other.
What I am enjoying is introducing both children to a whole different universe. A world that makes sense in itself and a sensibility long gone.
I am, however, finding it challenging to help a modern child understand the concepts and historical significance laid out in A Little Princess. How to you tell a child who is a very literal thinker and whose most challenging literature to date includes the books in the Dork Diaries series? (I am in no way slamming that series, Rachel Renee Russell has hit upon a very clever, and may I say addictive thread of fiction.) The inciting incident in A Little Princess involves the British occupation of India. The school Sara Crewe attends does have a similar social stratta to that of Nikki Maxwell, but no one in at Nikki’s prep school gets their ears boxed for being slow to perform a task.
A Little Princess is on the summer reading list for the school Child A will be attending in the fall. She is also supposed to read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. I have no idea how to begin to approach the concepts with her over this one.
The challenge I face is directly related to the information that is accessible to children 8-12. I have been boning up on my middle grade fiction so that I may be better informed when I load books into the reading pit that I plan to have in my classroom next year. I do enjoy the Dork Diaries, probably more than I should, but the other books in this particular genre of first person narrative fiction that also includes The Judy Moody series, Junie B. Jones and the I Funny series tend to dumb things down, IMHO for the reader. (I will freely admit that I do not like Judy or Junie and I might actually jump out a window if either of these children popped into my classroom. I would warmly embrace Ramona and Beezus and even Susan of the Boing Boing Hair. I have not read the I Funny series, mainly because I don’t think James Patterson needs my money.)
The other child I teach is not a reader, which is why I am reading to him. He is very bright, kind and sensitive child, but he’s not that great about listening for detail. I am reading him The Phantom Tollbooth two chapters at a time and it is a book best heard. We discuss the figurative language as we go along and we are going to do a fun, comprehensive activity when we finish the book.
Now he understands complicated concepts and ideas, so much so that I think it hurts his perspective.
Speaking of perspective, having to speedy-quick adjust my comprehension and attitude to work with these two students has helped me put a wedge between the pointless cruelty that abounds in the “real” world. And who wouldn’t choose to jump in the car with Milo and Tock and perhaps ask Sara and Becky if they would like to rescue Rhyme and Reason.
The choice is, as Child A would say, Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.