Monday, August 4, 2008
IRD Term II Week IV: Book Dreams
Yesterday I finished teaching week four of the IRD late summer term. Tomorrow I begin the last week of my summer job teaching reading skills to children and adults. The week went well--it was one of those flow weeks in teaching, where no problems seemed large, and I had fun with my students in different ways in all my classes. Nothing stood out, the week just smoothly went by. The lessons structure seems automatic to me now, as I approach the end, and so I have much more time to enjoy my students and enjoy, too, instructing them.
Although I am going to be really glad to have weekends back to spend with the Engineering Geek, the Chem Geek Princess, and Boychick (aka N.), I had a dream last night that shows that I am still going to be sad to see this summer teaching gig end. In my dream, I was at the IRD Offices on Ontario Street in the North River Neighborhood of Chicago. And I dreamed that we were having a celebration--a book celebration. The whole town had turned out, the kids and adults all wearing costumes and carrying their favorite book. John Boyd (the director of teaching) took us all on a tour of the crowded streets. We were collecting books and passing out books. As we walked along, I saw Frodo and his Fellowship. Boychick was dressed as Legolas, with long hair and bow. We turned the corner, and I saw Dicken's Pip, and Oliver Twist, and the Pickwicks. Across the street by the Lebanese restaurant, I saw Harry Potter, with Ron and Hermione in tow, all waving wands. We crossed Erie Street, and there was the Chem Geek Princess, carrying a box labeled Schroedinger's Cat. (It's Heinlein!) There was music, and, of course food! And we IRD teachers were working hard, passing out new books and collecting old ones and stacking them on the El Station Steps over Franklin Avenue.
I wonder if part of this dream came from my discussion yesterday with my Albuquerque adult class. We spent the last part of class reading and discussing Dana Gioia's speech On the Importance of Reading, which was published in the June 2006 issue of The Commonwealth. Many of the students were shocked and surprised about the decline of reading in the US and the importance of reading to civic values and American culture. Some were not impressed with Gioia's program, The Big Read. They said it was "lame." I think those who thought so were thinking it was too little, too late, and that education must be changed. (IRD president Paul Copperman did try to reform reading instruction in Americans schools, alas, to no avail). However, even the students who were critical of The Big Read, thought that Albuquerque ought to participate. So they took themselves off through a cloudburst to Starbucks to discuss it further.
Reading Gioia's essay always makes me think about Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451,"the temperature at which paper burns." It is a novel about an American in which the TV screens take up all four walls and are interactive, and in which billboards on the highways get bigger and bigger as the traffic goes by faster and faster. It is an America in which firemen do not put out fires, but rather burn books because the consumers (they are no longer citizens) demanded to be protected against the kind of thinking that reading engenders. In the novel, some people leave the cities and become living books--they can recite an entire book or volume.
Our discussion last night, thoughts of Gioia's article, thoughts of the end of this summer teaching gig; all of these seem to have caused me to have book dreams last night.
I was told that I would not only learn to teach differently, which was a true statement; I was also told that I would be doing important work: The kind of work that would enable me to fulfill my reading passion by sharing it with others. Sometimes, when we are confronted with the brass tacks of our work, we forget the underlying reason for doing it. And then it comes back to us in dreams.