This summer, I have read more in a short period of time than I ever have before. When I was looking into this class, I was not sure what types of books to expect; I was not sure which books even counted as “young adult.”
I was not expecting to get too much out of this summer class.
But I did.
This semester I read about 12 books. Each of them were so different from the other; I was surprised each time. The length, the size of the letters, the writing, the themes, all of them were so peculiar. There were some books that I really did not like, or want to finish. There were others that I could not get enough of and left me wanting more. Some books were just meh.
However, after I finished each book, I learned something. Some of the lessons were about me and my taste, and other ones were about life.
This is why it is so important to be a teacher who reads. Whenever I was on the flipgrid, I could not wait to find a video with someone who read the same book as me. I wanted to know if they agreed with how I felt, and sometimes I was left surprised when what they took away was completely different from what I did. As a teacher, I need to be able to do this with my students. It is so important that I can empathize with them when a book is terrible, and I also need to be able to learn to from their varying perspectives when I am not enjoying a book.
It is essential that as a teacher, I continue to be a learner too. Throughout several of the books that were culturally different from me, I had to google what some words meant or what were certain foods. I enjoyed this aspect of reading these novels so much; it made me feel outside of myself. In Pride, the main protagonist’s father shared that the way that he was able to travel around was through books. I felt that, and I think my future students will too. So many of the novels forced me to empathize with peoples different from me. Young Adult novels have an unique way of doing that while still being enjoyable. As English teachers, we are given a space where we have the freedom to explore these feelings a little deeper, and then break them apart. It is such a privilege that more teachers need to take advantage of, and YAL gives us perfect opportunities to do just that.
My biggest struggle this semester was the length of the books. Like I said before, some of the books were fairly easy to read, but other ones were a little tricky to follow. The cultural aspects of the books I read did play a big role in some of my struggle. I think that experience in itself, is important for teachers have, because it allows them to consider this when they want their students to read something written hundreds of years ago by a person of a different culture, time period, and race. But that is a tangent for another day.
If I tried to read without looking up some words, I would find out later that I was missing a big part of the story/meaning/ significance. So maybe my struggle was not so much the length of the books, but the time it took to read them. This semester, the structure of the class made it so that I had to read fairly quickly, without doing a lot of the work high school English teachers do with their students. I am also older than my students will be, and possibly a little more read (I said possibly). I worry that students will be put off by the length of books and/or the time it takes to read them and just give up altogether.
I am still struggling in my mind with how to combat that, and make it so that they press on and keep going.
I think that the most important aspect of this class was that we had the freedom to choose our books. I chose books that interested me, and that I wanted to read. And that made all the difference. If I did not like a book in the end, I only had myself (and the author) to blame.
I struggled with something I did not think would be a problem…
I kept wondering if a book was mature for my future students.
I know, I know. I’m disappointed too.
However, I am glad that I am now aware of this tendency in myself, to think that some things have to be censored for youth. The issues I read about are issues, and struggles that real students deal with. It is important that they read about these things too, so that they know they are not alone, and that they can talk about them.
At this point, I am just excited to get into the classroom, and see what it is like again! I am ready to take what I have learned about YAL and myself this semester, and see it in action. Everything spirally around my head right now is all theoretical, and I feel like it will not be as easy in real life as it is on paper. But right now, I definitely feel more equipped than I did at the beginning of the summer.