Friday, June 7, 2013

Expectations


I’ve been thinking about expectations lately. Actually, to be truthful, I’ve been thinking about them for two days. It began, as all good things in summer do, at the pool.

While lounging in my beach chair and trying to figure out what on earth Holden Caulfield was thinking as I basked in the sun on Wednesday afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice it was either raining or people were dripping on me. I squinted up to see five boys peering down. Pushing myself up I greeted my former students and noticed they seemed to be waiting for something. Hmm…

Oh, yes. I quickly asked them the question I had said I would ask each time I saw them for the rest of their lives – What are you reading?

Each boy quickly replied in turn, telling me the book they were in and the part they were at. When I reached the fifth boy he grinned and replied, “Nothing.”

What? I asked why he wasn’t reading and he said he didn’t read in summer. The other boys stared at him in shock. He hadn’t been in any of my classes, but I knew him from friends he had in my room. I assured him that his teacher would want him to read before sixth grade.

Nah, she won’t care.

Now, I know this to be false. I know his teacher and know she would care. Where did he get this idea? Maybe he was just thrown by the fact that his four friends wanted to tell their teacher what they were reading. Maybe he was embarrassed that he had nothing to share. I’m not sure. I do know that each of those four that wanted to talk to me knew I expected them to read this summer. They each know what the summer slump was and how you avoid it. They all left my room with a list of books they were going to read throughout the summer and my email address in case they needed more recommendations. And finally, they each left with the knowledge that if they couldn’t get a book anywhere else, they were to call me and I’d leave books on my front porch and they could come to my house to pick them up. They were to read.

With that boy in mind I headed to the ballpark last night to watch Liam’s team play. Luke and I stood behind the dugout watching the game and then I would turn and watch the other game being played behind us because my students were on that team. Back and forth we watched as the night went on. Luke was very patient as student after student came to talk to me – to be asked that ever important question – to tell me what part they had reached in the book. At one point, I realized that teaching in a small town, and teaching the way I do, must be hard on my kids. They do have to share their mom with a community of children, there isn’t many times that we aren’t surrounded by others. It was as I was realizing this that one boy came up. He’s headed into seventh grade next year and it’s been awhile since I’ve gotten the chance to talk to him. He walked up, grinned, and said something to the effect of…Are you going to ask me?

So I smiled and asked what he was reading. He quickly told me a title. He hadn’t been a big reader in my class when he started, but grew tremendously during our year together. I was so proud of him for reading, I quickly gave him a hug and told him so. His grin widened and he said he saw me at the pool the other day and realized it had been quite awhile since he read anything. He went home that night and started a book so he’d have an answer next time he saw me.

Tears sprung to my eyes, I’m glad he knows I expect him to read. I wish he read for himself, but I’ll take what I can get.

Then I went home with Chris and the boys. Luke is going into fifth next year, Liam into third. For one, reading has been an easy road, for the other, it has been a struggle. Both read on average an hour a day in the summer, if not more. Friends have asked me many times how I have managed to get both boys to love reading, if it is just natural since I love it so much. I don’t think so. We’ve worked hard to create readers by doing a few things:

·      They have always been surrounded by books.
·      They have always been read to.
·      I always talk to them about what they are reading.
·      And I expect them to read.

Expectations. Looking over the students at the pool, at the ballpark, my own sons – I notice that idea over and over. I expect them to read. They know this and, for the most part, they meet that expectation. Such a simple concept, really. As I tell my students often, if they wanted to be a better baseball player, they would practice, get lessons, put in the time. Why do we not realize the same holds true for reading? If I have to be the daily reminder for kids to read, I think I’m up to the challenge.  And if that means I have to go lounge at the pool even more, I am willing to make that sacrifice.
 
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