What is our purpose as English teachers?

Each summer, I find myself grappling with huge ideas about education. I love when other teachers challenge my ideas and force me to articulate why I teach a certain novel (FYI because it’s part of the curriculum is never a good enough response).

Below is my musings on one such idea that has been thoroughly challenged this year: teaching the Whole Class Read.

We English teachers tend to come to our craft with a “book bag” of sorts; armed with all the books we read as kids and all the books that impacted our lives in some magical, profound way. And we bring that passion with us into our classroom. In fact, many of us enter this profession because books mean something to us and we want to instill that passion into students. I, myself, came to this profession because of a book. But, I am starting to realize that just because a novel means something profound to me, it does not automatically mean it will have any lasting impact on my students.  My kids have learned to play school. They have figured out what teachers want from them so they can earn that A. They have learned that it’s easier, and quicker, to skim SparkNotes. They have learned that taking something “Jonny” said during our discussions and rewording it makes it seem like they read.

Four about three years I was blissfully unaware that this was happening in my room. Until I hunted down some of my former students and had a very eye opening conversation with them about their “fake reading.”

The sad thing is that many kids actually do like to read. And they would read on their own. But they don’t have the time.

We need to give them that time. Plain and simple.

And this is my goal for this school year.


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