Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Maybe you’re a teacher who values independent reading but is rubbish at assessing it. You don’t know if and how it should be graded, so you go back and forth and try different things each year but never arrive on anything you like. As a result, you’re not sure half of your students are reading outside of class, but you keep plugging away, placing authentic value on it: giving book talks, talking with students about books they might like and definitely should read. You keep setting aside class time to read.

Maybe you have a first hour that is a bunch of tired squirrels. They are beautiful people with rich, full lives, but these lives are frequently just going through the motions of English. During independent reading time, you sometimes have to shush them; every few weeks you sentence them to their desks instead of the freedom of the floor or the couch just to remind them that READING is the point. Sitting on a pillow is not the point.

Today is the first reading time since Thanksgiving break, and today is their first chance to move around the room in a while. They follow the two-feet-from-a-peer rule. You walk around the room, logging their titles and pages on your trusty clipboard, hoping that you looking over their shoulder twice a week will push them to put down that Chromebook and read in study hall if they weren’t doing so already.

When you finish, there are still five minutes left in the short reading period. You grab a book, perch on a stool, reading and breathing with them, noticing the quiet in the room. You look around. Eyes are locked in books. They are learning that reading matters, reading holds joy. This is the room you wish the other teachers could experience--the silent sense of everyone in their own little world, somehow together.