Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Meme: Passion Quilt

The amazing Tricia Stohr-Hunt, my friend and colleague who blogs at The Miss Rumphius Effect, has tagged me for a meme. Here are the rules:
  • Think about what you are passionate about teaching your students.
  • Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.
  • Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
  • Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.
I'm tackling this meme the day after following Tricia through some doors, and I couldn't help but notice that she posted pictures of open doors, for the most part, whereas the three I posted were all closed. Hmm. And Tricia's signature line on e-mails reads, "Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself. -- Chinese Proverb." Hmm, again.

So, here's the thing. I noticed while we were in Oxford how many closed doors, locked gates, and forbidden entrances there were throughout the various colleges of the university. It began to seem like a metaphor to me: there is knowledge being created, disseminated, and shared here, it said to me, but only among those who have the keys, the right credentials. Now, I realize that credentialing is necessary; we want our pilots to know how to fly, our engineers to understand bridge-building, our doctors to be up on the latest about disease and prevention. But I work in a field where the baseline credential is simply the ability to read. Too often, I'm afraid, we English professors scare our students with technical jargon, complex terminology, arcane knowledge; when we do that, we say to them, "this door, this book, is closed to you." How much better if we showed them an open book, an open door; if we talked about the pleasures of the text, the additional doors that reading a book can open? How much better if we acknowledged that not everyone comes to the text with the same tools, the same experiences, and if we tried to make some more tools available? Some of those tools are indeed theoretical ones, some involve arcane knowledge--but they should be all about increasing access, not denying it.

I stand by my closed doors. Quite literally, I think--some days what I want to do as a teacher is simply to stand by a closed door and indicate that it can be opened. Like Alice trying to get into the beautiful garden in Wonderland, or Mary Lennox trying to find the door to the Secret Garden, or Lucy finding the door to Narnia and then losing it, or Will cutting doorways into other worlds, we all know that doorways can lead us to amazing adventures. Closed or open, the very first step is knowing that they are there.

So here are three more doorways, all in their own way representative of my hopes for my teaching.

Keep the doorways clear .

a poem is a doorway

keep the book open

I'm thinking of several teacher types to tag, even if most of you don't blog about teaching or aren't currently employed as teachers. So, Caroline, Susan, Dawn, Lilian, and Jo(e), feel free to take this on. But you can also consider yourself tagged if you're reading this and are involved in teaching--as a parent, a workshop leader, a teacher, a librarian, or just a wide-awake person. There are lots of kinds of teaching, after all.

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