I teach but I need to still learn
Updated: Nov 24, 2019
As a parent, I have my daughter's best interests at heart. To avoid the summer slide, we read, read and read (which she enjoyed tremendously. She'll read us out of house and home soon!); she reviewed her Maths and did 10-minute German language exercises (albeit on the iPad). I was convinced that the summer slide would consume her. Do not get me wrong, I was not a slave driver; she had a jolly good time in the pool, meeting friends and playing with her cousins.
The drive to keep my daughter mentally stimulated, cognitively challenged yet relaxed made me realise that I needed to focus on myself, too. Was I getting that mental stimulation and cognitive challenge despite a month and a half off work?
As an educator and teacher trainer, the summer break is always a much needed getaway from planning, grading and teaching. But if my daughter could experience the summer slide, why not me? Will I remember most of what I had read and learnt during the year? Will I forget how to teach, prepare differentiated materials or grade objectively? I must say that I am thankful for long term memory and the beautiful human brain. Research has shown that adult brains are capable of regenerating new cells (The Learning Brain, Blakemore and Frith, Blackwell Publishing). So I think I am saved!
I love my books (and e-reader). Summer is the perfect time to pull out all the stops and indulge in leisurely reading but is any particular genre better than another? Does reading historical fiction or political-thrillers make me any less than a "serious" reader? I tend to agree with Herbert Mitgang of The New York Times (read article), that "popular" fiction does not have to be a dirty word. Whether you choose to pick up Canonical fiction, Serious fiction, Plain fiction or Junk fiction, my take is, just enjoy the read and keep that grey matter stimulated. According to Professor Roberts, "Like serious fiction, junk fiction requires its own sort of learnedness, which is often invisible and unacknowledged" (The Esthetics of Junk Fiction, University of Georgia Press). No matter what we are reading, our brain needs to work to make meaning, decode, encode, make associations and at the same time bring us pleasure and relaxation.
So, parents, if you have reluctant readers, do not downplay graphic novels. These are visually attractive and a great way to show children that words can be fun and playful (Do you not just love the bold 'POW's, 'BOOM's and those stick thin drawings?).
Competency in a language is not merely about speaking but the ability to manipulate words in a vary of situations (think word play, jokes, hyperbole, etc). Research has shown that if we do not expose children to printed text and stories, they become lexically impoverished (read article).
So I hope you enjoyed the summer and read all that 'junk' or 'popular' fiction you had been saving up for the beach or the comfy hotel bed, and so did your children.