Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sorry, Not Sorry

I should be grading, but to steal a line from my students, I'm sorry but not sorry.

I woke up to an inch an hour, snow falling in big fat flakes, coating our neighborhood in a downy blanket of white. It is quiet. There are 892 school closings in our area. Everyone is snuggled inside. And this would be the perfect time to pull up a few student essays, except this happened:
My kindergartener has loved this week, which kicked off with Read Across America day. Each day he has bounded off the school bus with a new story and a new connection to Dr. Seuss. Today was supposed to be crazy hair day at school, and he has had a plan for his hair since Monday. When he woke to find that school was cancelled due to snow, his lip jutted out and tears hovered on his lashes. He loves school. We don't use the word "hate" to describe things in our house, so you know it's serious when he declares, "I hate snow days!"  But within a few minutes, he's had a change of heart. He's convinced his younger brother to dress up with him, to spend the day dressed as Thing 1 and Thing 2. 

Breakfast is barely cleared from the table when my two boys get to work. They dig a cardboard box out the recycling and use crayons to make it red. They enlist me to use hair chalk to turn their hair blue. Suddenly Thing 1 and Thing 2 are bounding around our living room, bouncing out of their box, begging me to chase them, to try to lock them back into their chest like the Cat in the Hat tries to do. My boys are excited about bringing their books to life.

I want my high school readers to feel this excited. Okay, so my 15 and 16 year old readers are likely not going to come to school dressed as Tris from Divergent or Miles from Looking for Alaska. However, I want them to bring their enthusiasm for stories into our classroom, and for some, I want to help them rediscover that enthusiasm for reading. Somewhere between kindergarten and tenth grade, many of my students lost the love of being enveloped in a good story. I want to build a learning community that is excited to share their book recommendations. To do that, I need to open up space for students to choose their own books, discuss their good finds, to play with books.

But building this love of reading is not really something that can be tested, nor would I want to. So, in addition to not being all that sorry that I'm not spending my snow day grading in order to play Cat in the Hat with my boys, I'm also not at all sorry that I open up time for students to talk about books instead of spending time testing them on what they've read. I don't do plot tests or reading checks. It is wasted time. Talking about books is not wasted time. Exactly the opposite. I'm building life-long readers. So sorry, not sorry. 

 
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