How to: Stay in Love with Reading as an English Teaching Major (As told by Hyperbole and a Half Cartoons)

As an English teaching major in my senior year of college (somewhat…I’ll be done soon), I have often faced my biggest fear: falling out of love with English. 

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It started like all relationships. I became infatuated. I read… and read and read and read and read. There weren’t enough books assigned in school or on the library shelf to satisfy my hunger so I wrote…and wrote and wrote and wrote all the stories that didn’t exist but I wanted to read. I was a written word junkie, I tell you!

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So when it came time to pick my college major, I knew it had to involve English. Originally I just chose teaching because I needed to make money. I was idealistic, but I knew that the world wouldn’t just automatically pay me for reading. I had to trick them into paying me! As a teacher, I would get to read and write and get to talk about both all while doing this:

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So basically I outsmarted the system. I breezed through my required core classes, just waiting for my opportunity to sit in high-level English classes and chat with other academics and feed my love of literature and learning!!!!

I had my early English classes that were SUPER easy, and I was essentially conquering the world one sonnet at a time.

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Then my classes started getting harder. They wanted me to read more, and the material was harder. Obviously, I knew this would happen. But what I didn’t realize was that I would get burnt out on something I once loved. Instead of being excited to learn about new works, I didn’t even read them. I didn’t even show up to class. It seemed boring and useless. I had had too much! I was trying to focus on being in every school activity, have a social life, and waste time on the internet so I left myself no time for my English work. At that time, I was also beginning the classes for my education minor. Instead of being all “YAY! Teaching is great!”, my first class was taught by an abrasive professor who basically told us we were stupid and racist. I thought the class was a good idea, but it made me miserable. Something was wrong. I HATED everything about my major. I didn’t know what to do.

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This would continue for months. Couple that with depression and anxiety, and a job I hated, and I was in a crappy situation. I started to like my classes and become interested, but I had no drive. I knew everything that was covered in my classes, but I never turned in the assignments. My mind was screaming at me to stop, but I couldn’t do anything. It felt like I was suffocating. I knew that in order for my life to get better, I had to make a change. No. CHANGES!

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I cut out everything that was making me unhappy. I quit my crappy job. I stopped doing things that weren’t helping me. I started re-focusing on what I wanted and how I was going to achieve my goals.

As far as English, I took a SINGLE summer class. We met once a week for a few weeks, and I absolutely loved it. The professor showed us new ways to utilize technology in the classroom, and I actually READ the books we were assigned. It felt like I was cleaning a filthy window, and I could finally see!

I read and read and read over the summer, and fell in love again. This fall, I have a class on teaching literature, and I actually get to teach a REAL classroom of REAL students in a REAL school. By finally getting to experience and learn about what I want to do for the rest of my life, and it was AWESOME!

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So, for now, I’m back in love with English. I’ve stopped viewing it as a chore and started viewing it as a privilege. I took a break from it. Yes, it’s OK to not love it all the time! I didn’t know this so I’m telling you. It’s fine to not want to read every word ever written. It’s alright if you hate doing mindless assignments or even assignments at all. I learned that a rut is not the end of my life. There will be ruts throughout my life, but I will NOT allow them to stop me from doing what I want!

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After actually getting to do what made me excited again, I’m ready to tackle it head on. I’m not going to lie and say that I do all of my homework or do it with a smile, but I’m better. When I got to talk to students about why English is awesome, I was like- holy crap, I’m RIGHT!

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Getting to talk about and practice for a real classroom made everything seem real. I was no longer just learning the basics of driving, I was behind the wheel!

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Read these comic in their actual context and laugh your head off at: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 29 – A Book that is Most Like My Life

It’s been a bit since I’ve worked on this challenge because these last two days have stumped me!

I finally landed on The Devil Wears Prada. 

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I’ve always struggled to find a healthy balance between school, work, fun, family, and friends. It’s not easy, people!

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Like Andy, I have gotten caught up in work I thought was important. I’ve killed myself over trying to do little things that I thought would help my ambitions, often forgetting what really matters. I prided myself on my ability to sacrifice and work hard. It did help me for a time. Eventually, the stress and practice of putting myself last got to me. It’s not good! I had this somewhat prestigious job on campus that I quit this summer because I realized I was sacrificing my principles, one of which includes doing something that I feel is worthwhile and fun. If it sounds childish to you, I would encourage you to think about how long you’ll be alive. It’s a long time to be miserable. And for what?

Andy is still successful in the later books, but she is mature enough to know where to draw the line, even when it’s not easy, even when you’re giving up a LOT of great clothes.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 28 – Favorite Title

Studies show that people only have seven seconds to make a first impression.

I think it takes maybe two seconds for a book to make a first impression. The first things a reader notices about a book are its cover and title. Those two pieces can hold a TON of information and function to draw readers.

That’s why titles have to be memorable!

For that reason, I chose Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

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Goodreads Summary:
In his first book for young adults, bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by acclaimed artist Ellen Forney, that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

I LOVED this book! I hope I get a chance to teach it in my classroom. It’s wonderfully written with a balance of humor and heart and honesty.

Some teachable topics for this book:

-Identity, especially for minorities

-Graphic novels

-Banned books

-American history

-Discrimination and prejudice

I think it also appeals to those reluctant readers because the novel is accessible and relatable. It brings home a serious, thought-provoking message without sounding preachy. There are also PICTURES! Like this one!

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I hate the assumption that pictures in books are meant for children. There is an ever-growing audience for graphic novels that are renowned for their literary content. The pictures in this book add to the story and make it more diary-like.

Finally, this book with an amazing title has recently been banned in New York which, as many readers can attest, makes a book even more interesting!

30 Book Challenge: Day 27 – The Most Surprising Plot Twist or Ending

The hard part about this post is that I can’t tell you WHY this book has the best plot twist AND ending. So here are a bunch of GIFs that summed up my reactions to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. Read my review of the book here!

When I got halfway through the book:

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When I finished the book:

 

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As I stated in my review, I can be a pretty cynical, know-it-all reader so when I book surprises me, I’m basically astounded. Gone Girl did it and kept on doing it the entire huge book. Read it. It’s so worth it!

Disturbing Statistics on Reading

I was in the middle of spending a large portion of my life on Pinterest the other day (follow me here), I came across this infographic about reading. Allow me to address each statistic.

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1. I think once people graduate high school they think: YES! NO MORE HOMEWORK!!! Unless they continue onto higher education, this is exactly the case. Who is there to make them read? Even during higher education, there’s no incentive to actually read books when there are saviors like SparkNotes around. Unless you’re an English major like myself, why would you read a book? My significant other is actually proud of the lack of books he has read in his life. How do we prevent this? As a teacher, it is my job to inspire lifelong learning which includes lifelong reading. We need to adapt the curriculum so that our students see reading as fun instead of punishment. I say this as a kid who HATED reading in school because of the assigned material. It was like torture. Why would I willingly torture myself?! I think a great way to help students overcome this struggle is to introduce them to books OUTSIDE of the classroom. Let them free read or pick from a variety of books.

2. Post-college you are forreal home free. You’re “done” with reading for class or any other reason. Eventually you get caught up in life and grown-up business and forget that there is an entire book-verse out there waiting to be read! A great thing my public library does to engage adult readers is a One Book One Community event each year. They select a book for the entire community to read, and the author comes and talks and autographs books. They also host social gatherings to discuss the books. Reading as an adult can be fun! I swear! Pick a book with friends. It doesn’t have to be Dickens. It can be anything. And you can have adult beverages and yummy snacks. It’s a win-win.

3. Why are we not reading books to completion? There can be a lot of reasons. Sometimes a book isn’t interesting, and you just have to move on. Sometimes books are just super long. I love reading, but let’s face it: some books are INCREDIBLY LONG! It can be daunting. If you have problems finishing books, try reading a series of smaller novels. You get to read the same amount of pages and get that Finished Book Feeling. E-readers can be another solution. I’m an e-reader convert because they’re SO convenient. Read them on the bus. Read them on the treadmill. Wherever!

4. I personally can’t understand not walking into a bookstore. The smell. The books. It’s heavenly. BUT the book industry is changing. I remember frequenting a Borders within the last five years, and those don’t even exist anymore! Bookstores are becoming increasingly rare in this day and age (said in an old lady voice). People have e-readers and buy their books online. There just isn’t a market for bookstores to stay open anymore. Hopefully, they never become extinct because there is nothing like perusing a bookstore in real life.

5. I can see that families aren’t buying or reading books anymore. One, books are expensive! I would love to fill my bookshelves with books, but I’m a poor college student. If I can’t buy them, and they’re practically my drug, I can’t imagine people with limited interest spending money on them. With tense economic situations dominating many households, it’s no wonder that books have taken a backseat.

6. I couldn’t agree more. I can honestly say that I have learned about others through reading. It teaches empathy and gives new perspective on lives a reader may never encounter. It’s important that we teach young readers to read so they can become empathetic, educated adults. We must create LIFELONG LEARNERS!

7. This is a pretty incredible statistic. I think that potential readers often shy away from reading because it appears as an obstacle. You have to read SO many pages, and it takes SO much time. If we spend a FRACTION of the time we spend messing around online or watching TV reading, we could be international experts. Sounds very James Bond. If that’s not enough to get you reading, I don’t know what is!

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 26 – A Book That Changed My Opinion About Something

Being a reader means that you must be willing to have an open mind. I value open-mindedness because *spoiler alert* I don’t know everything, despite how I act most days. To appreciate other people’s stories, we have to allow new ideas to occupy our minds, at least for a little while. There are so many perspectives in the universe. A good book will open your eyes to a perspective you’ve never imagined.

For this entry, I time travel back to my high school days when I read Night by Elie Wiesel, which is now considered to be a classic. So much of what Wiesel wrote appealed to me, even at the age of 16, which we all know is the age when you are the smartest. The pain, compassion, and philosophy behind this novel are raw and inspiring.

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Summary:

A terrifying account of the Nazi death camp horror that turns a young Jewish boy into an agonized witness to the death of his family…the death of his innocence…and the death of his God. Penetrating and powerful, as personal as The Diary Of Anne FrankNight awakens the shocking memory of evil at its absolute and carries with it the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again.

Here are a few quotes from the novel that changed my mind on a few things:

“Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.”

“[Moishe] explained to me, with great emphasis, that every question possessed a power that was lost in the answer….
And why do you pray, Moishe?’ I asked him.
I pray to the God within me for the strength to ask Him the real questions.”

“And I, the for­mer mys­tic, was think­ing: Yes, man is stronger, greater than God. When Adam and Eve de­ceived You, You chased them from par­adise. When You were dis­pleased by Noah’s generation, You brought down the Flood. When Sodom lost Your fa­vour, You caused the heav­ens to rain down fire and damna­tion. But look at these men whom You have be­trayed, al­low­ing them to be tortured, slaugh­tered, gassed, and burned, what do they do? They pray be­fore You! They praise Your name!”

 

 

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 25 – A Character I Can Relate to the Most

I’m on the home stretch of this challenge! Only five more days! I thought this would get easier with time, but basically every other question stumps me. For this one, I kept thinking about which character I most wanted to be LIKE. There are plenty of qualities that I wish I could borrow from my favorite book characters.

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I could go on for days about how much I love The Hunger Games, and I think it’s because I identify so much with Katniss Everdeen. By no means am I an expert archer or survivalist, but I’m good at making tough decisions. I have had to take care of my younger sibling a lot, and I would do anything for him. Katniss and I operate on the same wavelength. We think logically, but our emotions can sometimes hinder us. We believe in fighting for others’ rights, even if it isn’t easy. Most of all, we value people above everything.

 

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 24 – A Book that I Wish More People Would’ve Read

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I love this book because I’m fascinated with Girl Culture, what it means to be a girl, and how our society is changing girlhood. Being a young girl today is SO much different than being a girl a few decades ago. You have to be sexy, innocent, girly, smart, stupid, everything and nothing and adfshfasd;fjaslkv;jbera;g

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The worst part is that we’re so indoctrinated to our culture’s beliefs on how girls should look and act that we, even the most passionately feminist among us, don’t even realize what we’re doing sometimes! This book gives great insight into the problems facing young girls and how our cultural practices can either help or hurt them. Since the beginning of time, women have been subject to double standards, objectification, and a whole multitude of other crappy stuff!

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In my opinion, the best place to act against misogyny is to build strong girls. (Which just so happens to be my sorority’s philanthropic mission!) We have to build girls a strong foundation so that they can deal with all the bull they’re going to encounter in the world. Then they’ll be better able to put a stop to it!

A Goodreads summary of Orenstein’s book:

The acclaimed author of the groundbreaking bestseller Schoolgirls reveals the dark side of pink and pretty: the rise of the girlie-girl, she warns, is not that innocent.
Pink and pretty or predatory and hardened, sexualized girlhood influences our daughters from infancy onward, telling them that how a girl looks matters more than who she is. Somewhere between the exhilarating rise of Girl Power in the 1990s and today, the pursuit of physical perfection has been recast as a source, the source of female empowerment. And commercialization has spread the message faster and farther, reaching girls at ever-younger ages.

But, realistically, how many times can you say no when your daughter begs for a pint-size wedding gown or the latest Hannah Montana CD? And how dangerous is pink and pretty anyway, especially given girls’ successes in the classroom and on the playing field? Being a princess is just make-believe, after all; eventually they grow out of it. Or do they? Does playing Cinderella shield girls from early sexualization, or prime them for it? Could today’s little princess become tomorrow’s sexting teen? And what if she does? Would that make her in charge of her sexuality, or an unwitting captive to it?

Those questions hit home with Peggy Orenstein, so she went sleuthing. She visited Disneyland and the international toy fair, trolled American Girl Place and Pottery Barn Kids, and met beauty pageant parents with preschoolers tricked out like Vegas showgirls. She dissected the science, created an online avatar, and parsed the original fairy tales. The stakes turn out to be higher than she – or we – ever imagined: nothing less than the health, development, and futures of our girls. From premature sexualization to the risk of depression to rising rates of narcissism, the potential negative impact of this new girlie-girl culture is undeniable; yet armed with awareness and recognition, parents can effectively counterbalance its influence in their daughters’ lives.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter is a must-read for anyone who cares about girls, and for parents helping their daughters navigate the rocky road to adulthood.

My Teaching Philosophy

For my education class, we have to come up with our philosophy on teaching.

The thing is the more I learn about being an educator, the more emotional I get. Sometimes I feel like I can’t wait to be a teacher, and other times I feel terrified to stand in front of my own class. It’s a HUGE job! And in a week or so I’ll begin my field experience where I go into a class and (hopefully) get to experience teaching some high school students. Or grade papers. Either way, I’m excited to learn!

I now have to think about what KIND of teacher I’ll be. Some days I feel like I’ll be this teacher:

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Other days I’m all:

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I’m hoping I can pave the road to teaching heaven with good intentions because there’s nothing I love more or am more passionate about.

SO here’s my official (for now) teaching philosophy:

I do not like to limit learning to one type of learning in a classroom. I am more of a non- traditionalist. I want my students to know that learning is constantly taking place and that exchanging ideas and experiencing new things and learning from other people is part of being educated. I think it is important for the teacher to give clear expectations to students so that students can rise to the occasion and become self-sufficient learners. Teachers should use discussion often in the classroom to help expand students’ knowledge and also allow the students to form critical thinking skills. I believe teachers must make an effort to get to know their students as individuals and their classes as a whole so that they can tailor their lessons accordingly. In order to best reach students, a teacher must do their best to be knowledgeable about their subject area, teaching techniques, and new technology. It’s important to always be learning and evolving so that students can follow that example. Teachers should be flexible, caring, and knowledgeable. Ultimately my goal as a teacher is to develop independent students who care about their world, are curious, and are critical thinkers. 

I’d like to hear from you about what you think makes a good or bad teacher. Maybe you could share your memories of your favorite/ least favorite teachers?

30 Day Book Challenge: Day 23- A Book I’ve Wanted to Read for a Long Time but Still Haven’t

As younger readers, we complain about having to read the classics, but (especially if you’re an English major) you thank your stars that someone forced you to read them! The Great Gatsby, Romeo and Juliette, Moby Dick- they’re classics for a reason. They mean something in our culture, and we’re still talking about them years after their publication. To get a lot of cultural references, you have to know about these books, even if it’s just a Wiki-based knowledge.

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is one of those books that EVERYONE knows and talks about.

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It’s a favorite coming of age tale. I have an English professor that gives it to each member of his family when they become a teenager. It’s a staple in classic and YA literature. People have posters of the cover and talk about how Holden Caufield is SO them!

And… I’ve never read it.

It wasn’t taught in my school! I just really want to read it because I need to know what all of the fuss is about. But it’s sat on my TBR shelf forever and ever. Maybe I’d really love it and want to teach it in the classroom. It’s clearly a novel that appeals to teenagers.

HOWEVER! I think now is an opportune time for me to start the novel because a movie about Salinger is coming out, and I’d like to have some primary knowledge of his work before I see it. Apparently, they’ve found FIVE new manuscripts that will be published posthumously. Isn’t it awesome when classic lit gets a moment in pop culture fan fare?

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I just have to find time to fit it into my schedule with the other billions of things I have to read for classes…