Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Reading Ain't Cool

Today I was remind of the very strong undercurrent against success in public schools. One of my students, who we'll call Randy, was openly mocked today for two things. One, he was able to make inferences from the reading about future events. Two, he liked the reading enough to talk about it in class. Now Randy is a smart kid. He's probably the smartest boy of his social group. The problem is that his peers don't do well in school because their academic ability is below average. As a result, they blow it off and disparage the school in general. This poses a problem for students like Randy who perform well in school, but must keep their success and understanding a secret from their peer group. Now Randy is fairly successful with this, but he let his enthusiasm for the reading material slip and his peers jumped on this. They negatively reinforced the idea that reading is a waste of time by making fun of his eagerness to read. This is made worse by the fact that the book we are currently reading has a female main character who falls in love with a boy and raises a giant pumpkin. It's not the typical topic that teenage boys are interested in. Randy likes to hunt, ride his dirt bike, and horse around as much as the rest of my male students, but he also has a sensitive and artistic side. It's hard to encourage this without making him seem even uncooler, but I'm trying.

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