Please help me welcome today’s guest blogger, Angela Jones. Angela has been a classroom teacher for thirteen years and is currently teaching fifth grade in Rocky Hill, Connecticut. She has always loved reading, but has become a known “book pusher” ever since she read Donalyn Miller’s life-changing book, The Book Whisperer. Angela has an eight year old daughter and a five year old son. After reading that last bedtime story of the night, she catches up on her own reading life, collaborating with authors and amazing teachers on twitter (follow her here), or reading from the list of books recommended to her.
I have always been a competent teacher. I worked hard to teach the curriculum. In my free time, I corrected a lot of papers. I was happy with the progress my kids made each year.
And then this all changed after I read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. I remember finishing the book and my first thought was that I wish I could go back and reteach all of the kids I had had in my class over the years. I felt guilty. It was a defining moment in my career. Yes, as teachers we have a curriculum to teach, but we have the power and the responsibility to do so much more. So much of this power comes in the form of books. Sharing the right books could make my students better people- more compassionate, more confident, more accepting. But how could I get my students to develop an intrinsic motivation to read? Donalyn Miller spelled it out clearly. We had to talk about books, and then talk about them some more. Kids needed to see that I made reading a priority. We began to celebrate independent reading with Friday Book Commercials. The excitement was contagious as students began sharing what they were reading through book blurbs or reviews or through creating Animoto book trailers. I was reading great books that I could recommend to them. The deep conversations continued to book clubs. And before I knew it, we had a full-fledged reading community.
With the Common Core knocking on our door, and all of the demands we have as teachers, I have felt this ideal slipping this year. There’s not enough time in the day. In writing this blog post, I stopped to catch my breath and reflect, and thank god I did. I remember that feeling of guilt I mentioned earlier and I never want to feel that way again. We are lucky as teachers that we always have tomorrow to try it again. So tomorrow, I will gather my fifth graders on our carpet, and we are just going to talk…about books.