divergent May 26


Reader? Teacher? Both. by Amanda Jaksetic

As an undergrad, I commented, “I just read a book like a teacher.” I hadn’t consciously done it, hadn’t read a book planning to teach it, or researched study guides to help me teach it. I had read a book to read it, and BAM! there was the teacher, not just the reader. “You should write an article about that,” my professor told me.


That was 8 years ago. No article…Until about a month ago. When it happened again*.


Some back story: Last year I began a reading challenge. I stumbled across an A to Z reading challenge – where, in one year, one reads 26 books – each with a title that begins with a letter of the alphabet. By March I was halfway through, so I challenged my challenge to read A to Z by title AND A to Z by author. This year I chose a new challenge – I found a blog post: “16 Books to Read Before They Hit the Theatres”. Divergent was one of the book on this year’s challenge list.


I planned on reading this for my own enjoyment, of course. I made it to page 2: “And tomorrow, at the Choosing Ceremony, I will decide on a faction.” BAM! The Giver: the “sorting ceremony” where they are given their jobs. BAM! The Hunger Games: the “faction” or district one belongs to. BAM! Vocational schools: my students can choose after their sophomore year – 16 years old (like those in Divergent and in The Hunger Games, ages 13-18, and in The Giver, age 13) to stay at our high school or go to the vocational school. And there she was: the teacher. I wanted to have a discussion after 2 pages: Is 16 (or 13-18) old enough to decide your future? Is that too young or too old to decide? But it wasn’t just a discussion I wanted to have with my family, friends, or reading buddies. I wanted to talk to my students. I even made a note on page 5, as Beatrice and others savor their “last day of youth”, to find articles – to include non-fiction, thank you Common Core – about making future/career decisions at 16 to supplement our reading and discussion. And from there the pencil and the reading teacher wouldn’t rest. I was no longer reading just a reader, but as a reading teacher.


And then it got worse. It wasn’t just the reading teacher, one who wants to share her reading life, talk about books, get kids to make connections and get excited about reading. Oh no, the planning teacher roared her ugly head. (I love her; she just makes my life more difficult – all the ideas, these plans.) This new plan was for a dystopian unit. I had an inkling of it once. But this time, I just wanted to get all the dystopian novels I’d read together – 1984, Fahrenheit 451, The Giver, The Hunger Games, Divergent, and some others I hadn’t read yet – and have a whole unit!


And it just kept going: I’m hoping our class “Reading for Enjoyment” that has disappeared from our electives will make a comeback soon. I’ve been re-imagining how this class might look: a class more like a book club, where we share what we’re reading; a class where challenges, like mine, are accepted; a class where my students are blogging like real writers, like I did with my challenges, like Nerdy Book Club writers do! Book. Unit. Whole Class! The teacher never leaves the reader alone…


So, eight years later, here is my article. I’m not just a reader, I am a teacher-reader. Sometimes she hides, and I can read a book just for myself. But almost always I am thinking about how I can share my reading life with my students: who would like this book, what discussions we could have, what new thoughts I could get them to think, how I could challenge them.
Because reading like a teacher isn’t like reading as a reader.


Amanda Jaksetic teaches high school English at Holgate High School in Ohio. Her love of books is closely tied to my love of pizza thanks to the Pizza Hut Book It Club. While challenging herself as a reader, she tries to keep up with what her students are reading and tries to challenge them with books they might find interesting. Her newest challenge is collecting and reading pictures books to her new baby girl. You can follow her and her bookish thoughts at http://jlatscha.weebly.com/reading-blog