Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Fight or Flight

I'm not quite getting what all the chatter is about re: this "new" way of teaching reading reported in the New York Times. This method has been around for so long, I thought it was basically standard operating procedure.

To me it makes perfect sense: You can't teach Hamlet until students get to that reading level. Students won't get to that reading level until they have practiced enough on easier material. And why not give them books that they will actually enjoy while they practice those skills? Why stick to dusty old "classics" just because we read them when we were in school?

Today I had a conversation with a parent who was upset about my choice of book for a read-aloud. The book I chose was Flight by Sherman Alexie, one of today's most highly regarded writers, winner of numerous prizes and honors. The parent was upset because her daughter had reported that the book contained profanity. She felt that I was setting a bad example for the student by using this language, even in the context of reading it out of a book.

I explained that I had chosen the book because of its utility in teaching independent reading skills. I told her that my high school teacher had taught Cather in the Rye, which similarly used strong language to make a point. She said, "Are you saying that the only way you can connect with your students is to use bad language???"

What could I do? I'm a 28-year old teacher. It's not a battle I had the energy to fight. Most of the class loves the book, but I will make it available for them to finish on their own if they choose. I will pick a more appropriate read-aloud and learn my lesson for next time.

1 comment:

teachin' said...

Dude, that sucks. That parent is lame, and I am sorry you had to deal with that. I hope her child doesn't totally rebel in dangerous ways, but based on my own experiences, it seems fairly likely. Language in a book is a pretty minor problem to worry about in the grand scheme of things.