This Sunday finds me feeling a little subdued; the natural disaster in Japan, and the images of the terrifying earthquakes and tsunami, makes book chat feel unseemly somehow. And now there is the threat of a nuclear meltdown, which could affect millions across the globe. It is a sobering thought.
One of my students suffered a tremendous loss last week, and Saturday morning I attended a memorial service for the father figure in my student's life. After the service I went to his home and talked with his family members, then my student walked me to my car. We've reached the point in the school year when I feel very close to my students, and when they have sorrows in their lives, I really do feel their pain. One of the elements of teaching that is probably unmeasurable is this: teaching is about relationships. It takes weeks and even months to build the trust between students and teacher, and even the best-intentioned teacher isn't always successful at this. But in my philosophy of teaching, building relationships is the most important thing I can do. Not to say that mastery of content or skillful instruction aren't important, but it all begins with a relationship between teacher and student. This has nothing to do with test scores or benchmarks or Adequate Yearly Progress. It can't be quantified or rewarded or mandated.
The public discourse on education and teachers distresses me, and when I've had time to think about and process what I've been observing, I plan to write about it (not necessarily here). I know this distress keeps bubbling to the surface in this blog, which is not a blog about teaching, but is a blog written by a teacher.
I hope I'll find time to post some reviews next week--I have several percolating at the back of my mind. There is a backlog of books for review that is really troubling my conscience (it's easily disturbed) and I hope to chip away at that pile soon.
I'm immersed in a wonderful book of stories by Irish writer Mary Lavin right now. I'd never heard of her, but I came across a reference to her stories in a short story by Eward P. Jones. I think this is the first time I've gotten a reading suggestion from a fictional character. The book I'm reading is In a Cafe: Selected Stories, and the stories are beautifully written, subtle, lush. The first story in the collection, "In the Middle of the Fields," begins this way:
The main character in the story is a young widow, and Lavin effortlessly captures the loneliness of the character and etches it directly into the landscape. Lovely writing.Like a rock in the sea, she was islanded by fields, the heavy grass washing about the house, and the cattle wading in it as in water. Even their gentle stirrings were a loss when they moved away at evening to the shelter of the woods. A rainy day might strike a wet flash from a hay barn on the far side of the river--not even a habitation! And yet she was less lonely for him here in Meath than elsewhere.
What are you reading now? Have you made any reading discoveries?