Saturday, September 5, 2015

Conversations about Reading

Our friend Chintan Girish Modi sent us this special post for Teacher's Day.

This story is from the time when I used to be a school teacher. It was the day of Dussehra. The entire batch of eighth graders had been invited to a traditional meal at a large house in one of the villages on the Konkan coast in Maharashtra. We were on our annual outstation field visit from Shishuvan School in Mumbai. From what I recall, there were 70-odd people, including students, teachers, and volunteer parents.

After we had finished our meal, and were sitting around bantering with the host family, I spotted one of my students in a corner. His head was buried in a book. That made me smile. I went closer to find out what he was reading, particularly because, while at school, he was a student who did not seem to enjoy reading much. It was much later in the year that I learnt about his learning difficulties.

The book was 'The Diary of A Wimpy Kid' by Jeff Kinney - the third one in a wildly popular series. "You must read it," he told me. "It is so funny." I wasn't quite sure at that time but I promised him that I would borrow the first book in the series from the school library. I did. I was hooked.

Students saw me reading it during lunch break, or carrying it with me in the corridor. They were curious and excited that I was reading something they enjoyed reading. I too enjoyed the conversations that suddenly opened up. For the first time, I was reading a book recommended by a student, and not the other way round.

The library did not have the entire series, so students lent me their copies. I relished each one. At that time, there were only five books in the series. An online search tells me that four more were published after that, and another one is due later this year.

That one casual recommendation by a student led me into a whole new world. I got an insight into what many students like to read for fun, not to complete a homework assignment. Of course, my adult mind did not completely disappear from my reading. It just lay aside in a hammock for a bit. And I could be a middle schooler once again.

Times like these made teaching worthwhile. I continue to teach, but less frequently and on shorter assignments. Being a teacher is a wonderful feeling because of what you get to learn.

About the author: Chintan Girish Modi works in education, publishing and peace advocacy. He tweets at @chintan_connect and @aaodostikarein

Image Source : Betsy Streeter

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