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TEACHER VOICES: Michele Godwin, #8

“I’ve got too much pride. I don’t want help.”

Michele Godwinfavicon Monday, March 2 – 2:45 pm
M asks the visiting law school student, “Is law school hard? Because I want to be a lawyer and a doctor, and I think it will be hard to go to school for both.”

The law school student kind of laughs, thinking M might be joking. Law school AND med school? The visitor sees that M is 100 percent serious and responds.

“Yes. Law school is hard. It’s really hard, and I don’t think I could handle anything more than I’m already doing.”

M responds: “I want to be a lawyer to help put bad people away, but I want to be a doctor, too, because a doctor saved my mom when she had an aneurysm a few years ago.”

Wednesday, March 4 – 10:50 am
Someone from a college readiness program pulled T out of class today and asked him all kinds of questions: How are your grades? What is your plan? When are you taking the SAT? the ACT? What do you want to major in?

When I ask T about the meeting, he says, “That guy knew all kinds of stuff about me! And then he was asking me all kinds of questions. I don’t even know him!”

I explain that the man and the program specifically picked T out of the crowd to support him to get to college, that this was a great opportunity, that they clearly see something special in him and want to help him be successful.

T shakes his head.

“Why are you shaking your head? What do you have against people helping you? This is a gift! This is a wonderful opportunity!” I screech in my old white lady voice.

“My pride,” he says. “I’ve got too much pride. I don’t want help from him. He don’t even know me!”

Screeching: “He wants to help you!”

“That’s what you’re for,” he says to me. “You’re going to help me get into college. I don’t need another stranger in my life, getting all up in my business.”

I let him go, shaking my own head this time. I suspect he doesn’t want more people in his life because he doesn’t want more people knowing about his hardships. It’s true: It’s my job to help him get into college. But I can’t do it on my own.

Thursday March 12, 2:45 pm
It’s study hall today. I write passes for students to go see teachers and get homework help, and I offer my assistance to the students who stay in the room. It starts out as chaos, but it always settles down to some good productive work time. I get out from behind my desk and sit at a table with students. Without trying to talk over them, I get a chance to observe and appreciate them:

D  goes out of his way to say hello to me and hug me goodbye. He is an only child and lives with his mother in a one bedroom in the Mission. He has been playing the drums his entire life; he lives to make music.

B is everyone’s favorite. Despite the attention, he always comes to class and puts his head down and churns out his work. He tells his dad, “I love you” every time he talks to him on the phone, ever since one of his best friends was killed.

J is going to enroll in an art class this summer so she can take the maximum number of AP classes next year. She volunteers just about every weekend, and she’s constantly working on homework. Somehow, she manages to accompany her mother to her oncology appointments.

T is the funny guy, constantly cracking inappropriate jokes and then apologizing. He and D are music-making buddies, always talking beats and rhymes in class. He’s a natural performer, and I can never stay mad at him for more than two seconds.

N is too smart for his own good. He gets Fs in all his classes, then at the very last minute, pulls them up to Cs. He read The Divine Comedy earlier this year, and just recently finished A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing. He works at the Academy of Sciences and plans to be a research scientist. But his GPA is terrible.

S came to us from Mali in September. He barely speaks English, but he speaks way more than he did seven months ago. He is unfailingly polite, always greeting me with a “Bonjour! Ça va?” in the morning. All the kids love him so much. I worry a little bit about the words he learns from them. He’s six-foot-eight with blue-black skin, thin as a rail, so he stands out even before he opens his mouth.

A won’t let me get close to him. He won’t let anyone get close to him. He’s all toughness and surly on the outside, but every once in a while, he’ll show some vulnerability, like when he talks about his new puppy, or when his mom comes for a meeting and he kisses her on the cheek. He’ll be a great lawyer, once he decides to do what it takes.

C is a straight-A student. He gets his work done without fail. But he’s bored by schoolwork. He’s got big dreams to go away to college—maybe out of state or even out of the country!—but I worry that his SAT score will keep him from getting into the schools he wants. High school has been easy. College is going to kick his ass.

Monday March 16 – 2:30 pm
The counselor, Ms. S., tells the other junior advisers and me that the registration deadline for the April ACT is fast approaching, and the SAT registration is coming up in a few weeks. Do we want her to come to our class and help sign kids up?

I tell her, “But they’re not ready! They haven’t studied! They’re just babies!” I don’t really call them babies, but I’m thinking it. Obviously they are not babies, with their cell phones and their surly mouths and their near-adult behaviors. But it seems crazy to me that it’s time for them to take the SAT and start thinking about college applications! How can that be? They are barely juniors!

They are not barely juniors. They are in their last quarter of their junior year of high school, and it is time for them to think about college applications and SATs and moving on with their lives.

I can only imagine how their mothers must feel. favicon

Ed. note: Michele Godwin is in her 14th year of teaching high school. She’s back at Leadership High School, where she taught from 2001 to 2008. An English teacher by training and experience, Michele has changed her focus to build a library for Leadership. In addition to her fundraising and library organizing, she is an 11th grade adviser. These are her musings from the past few weeks. Please donate so Michele can buy more books!

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TEACHER VOICES: Benjamin Dow, #2

School lunch revolution in Port Townsend

ben dowfavicon Yesterday, I bought school lunch for the first time in years.

Usually, buying school lunch on a regular basis seems something akin to a form of slow-moving assisted suicide for teachers. Only in dire straits would I resort to the combination of tater tots and Taco Bell-branded burritos that were available under the heat lamps.

But all that has changed in Port Townsend schools. This February, in what felt like an overnight makeover, everything was suddenly different about our school lunch program.

Students’ trays started showing up to lunch-time meetings piled high with kale chips, couscous salads, and sandwiches on local, organic bread.

Lunches started to look like this:

For the record (from top left), that’s fish tacos made with fresh fish delivered from our city docks by Key City Fish Company, a vegetable bake, shepherd’s pie with kale salad, followed by mac & cheese with lentil salad.

Then came pizza day with fresh sauce and cheese donated by our local Mt. Townsend Creamery:

And just like that, this year in Port Townsend schools has become the year of the school lunch.

Crazy things started to happen. Our English teacher who teaches Fast Food Nation to sophomores every year and eats what can only be described as a radically healthy diet bought a school lunch for the first time in 20 years. Then he bought another. And another.

I was walking through the middle school commons with a group of community members who knew nothing about the changes in school lunch when they started exclaiming to each other, “That’s the best smelling school lunch ever!”

How did it happen? Of course this type of fundamental change required significant community, administrative, and kitchen staff support and coordination.

We were lucky to start off with a community that had already been supportive: an active Farm to School group, an elementary school garden, and a middle-school orchard of fruit trees donated and planted by a local gleaners group to grow healthy snacks for our students.

We also had a superintendent and wellness committee committed to the change.  “We just can’t keep feeding our kids the same processed food and sugar,” Dr. David Engle said. “We want to see a transition from a feeding program to a meals program.”

This winter, he helped bring in Hope Borsato, a local chef and caterer with a background in large-scale food services and local organic cooking to help advise on the change.

All this sounds great… and expensive, but according to Engle and Borsato, costs have been roughly the same.

Borsato explained that they’d made several fundamental changes to lunch delivery to increase efficiency and offset the cost of higher-quality, hand-made cooking.

Historically, our district had created three separate menus for our elementary, middle and high schools. Now we all eat the same thing on a given day, freeing up kitchen staff to cook rather than prep three different types of reheated meals.

Instead of serving large pieces of low-quality meat, we switched to small amounts of high-quality meat in meals supplemented with protein from lots of bean and lentil salads.

The district has been creative about procuring affordable, high-quality ingredients locally. We’ve worked with the Port Townsend Food Co-op to purchase organic carrots at wholesale prices.

We replaced industrial bread with local, organic bread from Pane D’Amore bakery by taking their end of the day loaves for a dollar a piece. The next day we get a sandwich bar with bread like this:

The community has also played a huge role. Local chefs volunteered their time to work with our kitchen staff and help plan meals during the transition. A community member came forward with a thousand dollar donation to support the purchase of the small-scale cooking hardware our food services staff needed to start making meals from scratch. Our local award-winning cheese makers Mt. Townsend Creamery have donated 30 pounds of cheese each month.

Looking forward, the district is working with Jefferson Healthcare, our local hospital, on pre-orders of fresh fruits and vegetables from area farmers–a sort of CSA for schools. This will help us source more local, and often organic, food for school lunches while supporting our area farmers as well. Students for Sustainability, a high school club, is working with the district to lead implementation of reusable plates and silverware this spring.

For the past month, all these changes in school food have been the lunchtime conversation for teachers and students alike. These conversations around food have blossomed into larger connections between our lunches, our curriculum, and our community.

Here’s what an integrated approach to food and education can look like:

At our elementary school, students learned about planting potatoes from Farmer Zach from our local Dharma Ridge Farm. That day for lunch across the district, we had a baked potato bar featuring organic potatoes from the same farmer’s fields. Later at the high school, local professor Wes Cecil and chef Arran Stark co-led an interactive lecture for our students on the history of the potato and its importance to the world.

Those are the kinds of interdisciplinary, real-world connections educational theorists dream about. In Port Townsend, they’ve become our students’ reality.

It’s easy to get bogged down in all the things that aren’t working well in public schools. Change like this gives you hope for what public schools can do and be. It feels authentic and it feels real. And it reminds you that given the right community and school support it can happen quickly.

Perhaps most hopefully of all, Port Townsend did it on our own.  In a small, rural district with an almost 50 percent free- and reduced lunch rate, we didn’t wait for the State of Washington to fund it. We didn’t wait for a Department of Education mandate. The community, schools and food services staff saw what was right and made it real. It was hard work and often a struggle for those tasked with implementing the change, but the results have been nothing short of revolutionary. favicon

(Photo credits: Benjamin Dow, Tom Gambill, and Jan Boutilier.)

Ed. note: My claim to fame is that I got to co-teach American Studies with Benjamin Dow in the last century. Since then, Mr. Dow has taught English and social studies in China, Ghana, and Port Townsend, Washington, where he currently teaches Contemporary World Problems. He is published in Teaching Tolerance and recites an annual poemfor graduating seniors.

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TEACHER VOICES: Peter Myers, #5

“Maybe I should have bought them ice cream.”

Peter Myers 3favicon Over the years I’ve noticed a trend in student behavior that I’ve only recently been able to name: entitlement.

Now, I must warn you: This will not be a warm, fuzzy, “aren’t-my-students-AMAZING?!” post praising the young people of today. This is going to be one of “those” posts that places blame for the problems in education squarely on the shoulders of the students.

But it’s not a scathing exposé, either.

My school’s academic calendar is based on two semesters, three terms per semester. This past Monday was the beginning of Term 4. I had noticed in my 5th period Global Studies class that in Term 3, the rate of homework turn-in hovered in the 60th percentile.

As I gave my students their first homework for term 4 on Tuesday, I brought this up to my students and told them that if the turn-in rate for Wednesday wasn’t in the eighties, then I would assign them homework every single night, including weekends, for the remainder of the term. As you can imagine, this elicited the predictable responses around fairness and impunity. I listened patiently (too patiently, I think), explained my rationale, and then went forward with assigning the homework.

The next day, I collected the homework, and out of my 23 students, how many kids do you think turned in their homework? If you guessed 23, you’d be correct. 100% of my students did their homework.

When I reported this to the class, the main question asked by several students in near-unison: “What do we get?” This question whipped my class into a frenzy of suggestions: pizza party, ice cream, candy, free day, no more homework.

By the time I gave the answer of “nothing”, only about 30 seconds had lapsed, but what a revealing 30 seconds. This generation of students are the entitled generation. They expect a reward for doing what they’re supposed to. When I told my students they would be getting “nothing” for doing what I expected them to do, they were incredulous. “Whyyyyyyyyyy, Mr. Myers, whyyyyyyyy?”

When you go to a college-prep school that is rigorous by design, it shouldn’t be a shocker that homework is expected to be done. But with (my) students these days, it supports the trend that kids are entitled.

Research in this area takes different approaches, but all roads lead to entitlement. PISA is an international standardized test in reading, math, and science that is administered every three years. The latest data is from the 2012 test given in more sixty countries across the globe, including the United States. American students ranked about average in science and reading and below average in math, compared with the other 64 countries.

However, we ranked a solid #1 when it came to confidence. All students were asked how they thought they did on their exams, and our kids, overwhelmingly, believed they had crushed the test, when, in fact, we were, at best, average. That overconfidence has also appeared in longitudinal studies in psychology. One study demonstrates that students now are more confident in their abilities compared with their counterparts in the 1970s and ’80s, but have lower, comparative assessment results to back up their claims. Another longitudinal study started in the 1980s through the 2000s asked college freshman a series of questions designed to assess empathy and narcissism. The results: increasing rates of narcissism and decreasing rates of empathy.

As a teacher, I don’t know what to do about entitlement. Entitlement drives me absolutely crazy.

And it’s something that didn’t exist in the same way when I first stepped into a classroom in 2002. But I see it growing and getting louder and rearing its ugly head more frequently.

The same day I collected 100% of my students’ homework, I also assigned homework for them that evening, but without the same threat of 80%. What do you think the turn-in rate was the next day? Out of 23 kids, 11 did the work.

Maybe I should have bought them ice cream.

Grrrrrrrrrr!!! favicon

Ed. Note: Peter Myers is a teacher in Portland, Oregon. He began teaching in the Bay Area in 2002 and spent two years in South Africa with African Leadership Academy before returning to his Pacific Northwest roots in 2010. Peter is currently teaching 9th grade Global Studies, as well as 12th grade Health.

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On teachers and classroom libraries

favicon Today I visited with Nancy Jo Turner, a good friend and former colleague, at Realm Charter School in Berkeley.

We chatted and talked about life and about teaching, and I was reminded of her beautiful classroom library and her commitment to independent reading.

Beautiful: Clean design, covers facing outward!
Beautiful: Clean design, covers facing outward!

Hanging out with Nancy Jo also reminded me how hard it is for teachers to maintain robust classroom libraries. (She’s doing it, though, very well.)

It’s (at least) a part-time job:

– Encouraging students to read,
– Checking books out to students,
– Conferencing with students,
– Finding money to purchase new books,
– Checking in returned books,
– Re-shelving returned books,
– Keeping track of completed books,
– And more, of course.

I honor the work that Nancy Jo and other teachers are doing across the San Francisco Bay Area to ensure that students have immediate and ongoing access to high-interest books.

It is also praiseworthy that teachers celebrate the reading of their students. Here’s just one of the ways that Nancy Jo does this:

IMG_20150317_164514307

When I visit teachers in their classrooms, it gets me inspired to continue thinking about the best ways to build reading cultures in schools. It’s not easy work, but it’s worthwhile work.

After all, when students make reading a habit, and when they start liking it again, and when they’ve completed several books, there’s something big that happens. Conversations improve. There are more hopes and what-ifs. And students start building a bigger life that is their own. favicon

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TEACHER VOICES: Dave Keller, #2

I share. Do students care?

Dave Keller - TEACHER VOICES - Iserotopefavicon Being gay in the classroom is more than being happy. But what is it? Last September, I began coming out to my school. I was really interested in how being out would impact my experience as a teacher and how my students would respond. I had high hopes that being more authentic would improve the classroom experience for students and their learning. Looking back on the first six months of this experiment, I get a little giddy with excitement because it was fun.

My first step was to attend a Gay-Straight Alliance meeting. It was the first GSA meeting of the year, and everyone was excited to be back at school. Kramer, a student of mine from the previous year, invited me to the meeting. She made me feel really welcome when I showed up to a room of students I did not know. Telling my story on the second visit to GSA was nerve-wracking: a little like being on a roller coaster.

Once I began my “coming out story,” I knew I couldn’t stop and get off the ride. My stomach was doing that vertigo thing it does when falling or at the edge of a cliff. A mix of fear and excitement with a Red Bull chaser.

To my surprise, the students seemed totally unfazed. Is that the teen reaction to everything? I began to wonder whether being gay was so normalized that kids expect a range of sexual orientations in their teachers?

During the meeting, there were at least six students who talked about their identities. They all acted as though this was totally normal. They used terms like pansexual, queer, lesbian, asexual, gay, bi, and others that were totally unfamiliar. I was off to Google.

A week or two later, I got a random hug from a kid that I barely knew. This is really a big deal for me as I’ve never been a huggy kind of guy. But here I was, in the middle of the breezeway with a member of the GSA administering a hug for absolutely no apparent reason. I didn’t know her name. Didn’t have her in any class. Had only seen her once before but never had said more than two words to her. A random act of kindness or a gesture of appreciation?

Maybe the GSA wasn’t as unfazed by having a gay teacher on campus as I thought. Wasn’t sure how I felt about blurring the line between teacher and student with hugs, but there was a lot of the school year left to sort that one out.

I’m still investigating a lot about being openly gay on campus. By now, most of the faculty and student body who know me know I’m gay. How important is this? For the most part, the community seems unfazed. If students are unfazed by a person’s sexuality, does it matter if teachers are out? My hunch is that it does matter to some students. But does being out have a positive impact on my teaching? There are many questions to answer and just enough of the year left that I might actually get some answers. favicon

Ed. Note: Dave Keller (@dkeller101) has been teaching Social Studies for 17 years, consistently looking for new curriculum and methods of instruction. While experimenting with technology in education, Dave focuses on teaching the reading and writing skills required for studying our social universe. He has taught classes throughout the Social Studies discipline in a variety of high schools, including a large comprehensive inner-city school, a charter school, and a competitive independent school. He currently lives in Oakland and teaches at Piedmont High.

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Mateo reviews The New Jim Crow

coverfavicon Mateo, a student in Kathleen’s class in San Francisco, has this to say about Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow.

I extremely enjoyed this book, and I admired Michelle Alexander’s courage to raise issues that are plaguing our society.

Alexander goes in depth about the prison industrial complex, in which we continue to see black men incarcerated for drug crimes. She states statistics that show that white men actually use and sell drugs at astronomical rates, but still black men are being imprisoned.

Alexander concludes that we are in “The New Jim Crow Era.” Many people feel as though we are no longer fighting against explicit racism; however, with the incarceration rates of young Black men, it shows people of color are still being “tamed.”

Alexander’s passion for and knowledge of the Prison Industrial Complex really inspired me to raise these same issues to people who are ignorant to the injustices people of color are facing. favicon

Readers: If you’ve read The New Jim Crow, please leave a comment for Mateo. What did you think of the book?

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The Kindle Library reaches 450 titles

favicon One powerful part of the Kindle Classroom Project is that it breaks down barriers to reading. If a student wants to read a book, he or she can request it, and because of generous donors, I buy it.

I’m happy to announce that today, the Kindle Library reached 450 titles.

Every day, the Kindle Library grows because students are reading. It’s very exciting. Here are a few of the latest books students have requested and received:

The Cartel 3The Cartel 3
By Ashley Antoinette and JaQuavis Coleman

Requested by Vanessa, Kathleen’s class, San Francisco

“I want to keep reading The Cartel books until there are no more sequels!! I LOVE THE BOOKS!!!”

 

 

Dark AllianceDark Alliance
By Gary Webb

Requested by Nicholas, Kathleen’s class, San Francisco

“I want to read this book because it revolves around the CIA and its involvement in drug syndicates. This topic has always been of interest to me. I also am looking for books that pose more of a challenge and have a higher Lexile level, and this seems like the perfect book to fill that requirement.”

Memoirs of a GeishaMemoirs of a Geisha
By Arthur Golden

Requested by Alasia, Kathleen’s classroom, SF

“I really want to read this book. I saw the cover of it a lot growing up, and I really want to read it now. What sparked my interest was yesterday I was walking by a book store, and I saw the book on sale, but I didn’t have cash. I’m not sure if I’ll ever go back there or not and if the book will still be there. I was hoping I could get it for my Kindle since I just got one from my school.”

If you’d like to help students request books they want to read, please consider donating an Amazon gift card. The easiest way is to visit the KCP Wishlist and to select among the $10, $40, or $100 denominations. For more ways to contribute, please visit the Contribute page. favicon

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TEACHER VOICES: Marni Spitz, #5

The power of teaching The Bluest Eye

ms. spitz 4favicon There are many things one can call a teacher, but selfish usually doesn’t make the list. However, I have to admit: I have done something with my Reading Labbers for my own personal happiness, and the best/worst part is, I feel really good about it. Allow me to explain:

The time had arrived for me to choose a book that my Reading Lab would read together as a class. By my own admission, I tend to make a big deal out of things that are so not a big deal (like choosing what to eat for breakfast or which episode of Friends I’d like to watch again). Choosing a book to read for my Reading Lab readers seemed like the biggest deal ever. I found myself hyper-analyzing every book to make sure that this would be a positive experience for my students. After all, the whole point of the class was to bring joy into reading, and the last thing I wanted to do was bring another book into my students’ lives that felt boring, or hard, or painful. But when it came down to it, I really, really, really wanted us to read a book that would make them  feel empowered and proud of themselves and special. Finding a book that would be both joyful and empowering seemed really hard. (Like when I have to choose between Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Honey Nut Cheerios).

After months (seriously, months) of thinking about this selection, I finally opted for a book that I wasn’t confident would bring joy to the kiddos, but one that I knew for sure would bring joy to me. I chose The Bluest Eye because I love it so much, I think it such an important story and piece, and to be honest, I wanted to read it again. I felt good about my decision but I was really, really, really nervous about it. The book is banned in many states (most recently, Ohio, the very state where the book takes place), it talks about issues that are extremely painful and intense, and on top of this, it’s  a really hard book to read. It takes a special kind of reader to read Toni Morrison (the best kind, if you ask me). I am admittedly obsessed with her, but the woman is anything but “easy” in her writing. Would my kids get it? Would they like it? Or would this be just another book that went into the “I hate when I read books at school” box?  And if they didn’t like it, I anticipated that I would take it far more personally than I should have. I needed to be careful of that. Clearly, I had gone with only half of the criteria, leaving the first part (the one about bringing joy) all to myself.

The Bluest Eye

So there we were, Day One of reading Toni Morrison’s first book (and one of my favorite pieces of literature, ever, ever, ever) with a  group of ninth grade struggling readers. What was I thinking?

Even before starting the book with my students, I made sure to capitalize on the timeless teenage propensity to love things that aren’t allowed. So of course, we launched our experience by first reading about how The Bluest Eye is banned in several school districts around the country. This got them intrigued. Did you say, BANNED, Ms Spitz? Does this mean we are breaking the rules?!?!! I explained that while it wasn’t banned at our school, I was still pretty cool for letting them read it. ;) I also decided to be up front about its difficulty, knowing this could potentially backfire. This made them feel proud. Did you say this book is on an 11th grade reading list, Ms. Spitz? But we’re only in 9th grade!  I figured intrigued and proud were two feelings I could run with. So after talking a bit about the history, a bit about Toni (and how much I idolized her),  on we went.

As we dived into the Prologue, I was surprised at how not nervous I was. Guided by my own selfishness, I loved reading the lyrical genius of Toni Morrison with my kids.

If you haven’t read The Bluest Eye, and haven’t listened to Toni read her own book, might I recommend that you do so immediately. Preferably, do this with a classroom of adorably earnest ninth graders.  Seriously, stop reading this blog and go do that now. :)

The whole process felt so natural that I almost forgot to worry whether or not my kids were liking the book or not. I was too wrapped up in my own cocoon of joy to even think about that. And then, somewhere between page 87 and 89,  I realized I wasn’t worrying about their joy because it was kind of just happening.

We were reading The Bluest Eye together and having the best time. Everyone seemed on board. We stopped every now and then, summarized what happened, shared some of our favorite quotes, talked about our opinions of the characters, and whoever I called on (even with no hand raised) seemed to be right with me. What was going on?

And then: We watched this clip with Toni on The Colbert Report:

Sure, 14-year-olds and Colbert might not be BFFs just yet, but seeing Toni in her element, talking about race and specifically about the very book we we reading made my students feel important, empowered and…full of joy. Ms Spitz look! Our book! We’re like…famous!

Once again hoping to feed my own selfishness, I held individual conferences about our reading, and here’s what they had to say. (I have intentionally excluded my reactions to these comments for fear that there are not enough exclamation marks to express my boundless joy.)

Elizabeth: I love Pecola because I feel I have a  human connection to her, and this book makes me want to read more Toni Morrison books.

Jimmy: I really like this book because it’s not like other books I’ve read because it’s not a fairy tale, it’s real life.

Maribel:  The writing is confusing, but when you think about it, you get to understand it better, and then it makes me feel  I can read more books that might seem confusing. There’s something about the author I like.  It’s hard to put into words.

Justin: The fact that it’s banned makes it interesting.  At first I didn’t think I was going to like it, but then it starts to tell you more about the characters and their pasts. I really like Claudia’s innocence.

Sergio: It has really descriptive writing, powerful wording, and lots of explanations of why things are happening. It’s cool: I’m really getting this. The author’s cool because I like how she explains stuff and how she likes her own books. I really like her confidence.

Rayanie: She (Toni)  makes you think a lot, and I like that.

Aryanna: I think its important  for us to read because as a teenager, your life gets more into racial issues and self-image and what others think about you. So it feels like issues in the book are happening today, and I can relate to it. Pecola makes me feel like I just want to care of her.

Khyree: I think it’s a good book because it talks about how people were treated for their color of their skin and not their heart. It just shows how being in poverty and skin color can really affect you, and it can hurt you.

There is so much that we could further dive into with these responses, but to hear my Reading Labbers, my ninth graders, my “struggling” readers speak like this, about The Bluest Eye, about Toni Morrison and about a book that I love, I mean — how beautiful is that!?!? Does it get any better?!?!

Had my selfishness created a magical reading experience? Note to self: Why yes, it most certainly did. favicon

Ed. note: Marni Spitz teaches U.S. History and Reading Lab at City Arts and Technology High School in San Francisco. This is her fifth post for TEACHER VOICES. Donate to Marni’s classroom!

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