In Quebec, teachers have been told not to teach while the schools are closed for this initial 2-week period (it is hard to believe it has been less than a week that the schools have been closed!):
“Teachers, as per the Minister of Education’s statements today, will not be providing work to students over the two week school closure period. As he stated, teachers will work with their students to catch-up when schools re-open.” From this EMSB Director General update on March 13, 2020.
Over the past few days, a number of people have asked me for suggestions regarding homeschooling their children. Some parents are angry that teachers aren’t immediately creating Google classrooms and skype lessons so they are asking – what should we do?
For a little while there, at the onset, I was sharing lists of free resources for learning at home but after about a day, I stopped.
Why did I stop? It was getting to be too much. There are SO MANY lists floating around that I realized – wait. It almost feels like education resource companies (educational technology, textbook, evaluations, etc…) are creating a false sense of panic. This escalated sharing of lists and resources of free (for now) resources started to remind me of people grabbing up as much toilet paper as they could.
So what have I been doing since then? My response is now always the same. Read. Read alone and read together.
Readers create thinkers but even more important reading together creates feelings of care and security. We need to build those feelings up right now.
If you are working from home, book (ha ha) reading time before or after work. And while you are working? It is more than ok if your children play. Play also helps to increase feelings of security and as an added bonus it is important in brain development.
Imagine for now if each of your child’s teachers sent home work to do. Now reflect on that scenario with multiple children. And now reflect on that scenario for people with no access to a computer at home for each of those children to work. And now imagine all of the screen time that this will entail. Here is one woman’s heart-felt response as she lives this reality. In fact, this is the video that inspired this article.
I have had a series of conversations with different teachers and other educators about reading. Invariably the notion of a culture of reading comes up and just as invariably it is pitted against ‘technology’, as if it is something we need to save from the onslaught of technology.
Reading programs at schools and centres often want to focus on book reading, as if that is the only reading worthy of being part of the culture. I met with some educators who had implemented a ‘drop everything and read’ kind of program at their adult education centre and asked them about reading on devices – mainly phones and tablets. They proudly said, Oh no. This is a break from electronics – no devices allowed.
I have a difficult time seeing reading as something separate from technology. Of course, it is something that I used to do before I had a computer or ereader or tablet or smart phone but now I see those things as deepening the culture, widening it.
I read, boy do I read. When I was studying for my BEd I took a class in children’s literature and one of our assignments was a history of ourselves as readers, starting with what our parents read to us. I couldn’t remember my parents reading to me – so much so that I challenged them with it. They both responded, in unison, ‘what are you talking about? One fish, two fish, red fish, blue, fish!‘
So apparently they did read to me. The thing was, I began to read independently at a very young age and so perhaps the memories of their reading to me go too far back.
I became a teacher because I wanted to help as many kids as possible become readers. I was inspired by a PBS show, can’t remember the name right now, about a group of friends in elementary school who would solve mysteries, crimes, problems by reading their way through clues. Really. At the time I was a bartender, having completed a BFA in painting and art history 4 years earlier and so my afternoons were free to both watch PBS and ponder my future. At around the same time I visited a friend who was teaching French in Toronto and spent a week doing an art project with her students. That was it, I was hooked on the classroom, so I went back to school.
Writing this makes me think about my current teaching practice. What I do now has very little to do with reading. There is some reading in the French curriculum in Ontario (Core French) but very little. The focus of the program is oral communication and reading is not evaluated at all until grade 4. I became a French teacher because it was the only way for me to get into the Ontario system with its glut of teachers, but I do miss helping students to work with the written word.
Back to me as a reader…
I generally have a few books going at the same time. Sometimes because I have forgotten a book at home or at work and need something to read so I start a new one. Sometimes they are different genres: non-fiction for when I feel cerebral, a good novel for when I need to think in a different way, and a detective book or sci-fi/fantasy for pure entertainment. Right now I’m in the middle of:
The Passage by Justin Cronin, which I loved at first but am having a hard time finishing and I am not even 1/2 way through. The Globe and Mail article linked to in the title explains a bit of why.
Pieces of Me by Charlotte Gingras (translated into English by Susan Ouriou) is going by way too quickly! It’s a short novel, can be read in one sitting, but I am trying to piece it out to make it last. Touted as a kids novel I am finding it easy to relate to as an adult as well.
When I was young I read anything and anywhere. I remember reading in the car at night, scrambling to get a few sentences in as we drove by streetlights on the highway.
I remember convincing my grandmother, who had promised me a book at the shopping mall, that the boxed set of CS Lewis’ Narnia series was one item. I then proceeded to finish the books in a few days. No, I devoured them.
When we first moved to New York (my father was doing a fellowship at Cornell) all I had to read for a while was National Geographic magazines. I was 5 so was probably spending more time ‘reading’ the pictures and maybe some of their captions but to this day they remain amongst my first memories of reading.
I was never really into classics like Moby Dick or the like but when I moved to China (Beijing) they were the only English books I could get. It’s a good thing I spent time in China because I’ve since read Moby Dick a few times. What a great novel.
I could keep writing but I need to get myself presentable for work. I’ll be adding to this but for now, what stories do you have about you as a reader?