Making Time for What’s Important

In a class on the Essay at Bread Loaf, Shirley Brice-Heath said that reading and writing are leisure activities.  She said this in explanation of why so many writers in the 19th century, or any other time period, were upper middle class and/or wealthy.  It takes time to read and time to write, one can’t be working all hours on the factory floor if one is going to read and write.  Over time I have hacked away at the “stuff” I teach that takes up the time of the classroom; I have abandoned entire beloved lesson plans and units because they ate into the time my students have to read and write.  My students live busy complex lives.  They work at their jobs, often more than one, they have many classes in addition to mine and some of them have babies that they have to take care of as well.  So I schedule huge blocks of time to read and write in class everyday.  It is not a “Read-in” Friday, or “let’s write an in-class essay today”, but every day we are reading and writing together and alone.  It is what is expected in my class.  Over time the students come to expect the time they have to read and write and become irritable when they don’t get that time because of scheduled and unscheduled administrative dictates.  The time to read and write is important, because it is time the students don’t normally get.  It is ironic, as Randy Bomer pointed out, that we banish students committing acts of literacy from the classroom in order to provide time for state test prep, drill and bundle tests; activities which teach the students to hate reading and writing.  Maybe not so ironic as criminal.
(November 2011)

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