Resolutions: Are They Just a Fantasy? by Hattie Maguire
Well, it’s just over a month in and I’ve already done it.
- I’ve been on my phone when I should be paying attention to my kids.
- I didn’t hit my weekly running mileage goal last week.
- Healthy, homemade family dinners didn’t so much happen last week.
These are just a few of the ways I’ve already broken some of the resolutions I so gleefully wrote down on January 1. I’m a resolver. A list maker. I made a lot of them and I had every intention of keeping them, but I haven’t been completely successful.
My resolving spilled over into my classroom this year, too. Before we left for break, we had a New Year’s Eve Party and I helped my students make reading resolutions. I was eager to help them make plans for their reading because, as Donalyn Miller explains in her book Reading in the Wild: “Wild readers talk about the books we are currently reading or just finished…the anticipation of another great reading experience drives our continued enthusiasm and interest in reading.”
My own resolution? Read more fantasy. It’s one genre that I’m not naturally “into” and I’m always at a loss when trying to recommend books for kids that like it. I started out strong. I stalked some former students’ Goodreads accounts for fantasy recommendations, asked a few of my werewolf-lovin’ colleagues for recommendations, and I started in on my first one: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. The first fifty pages were tough, but once I embraced the demons–City of Bones is literally full of demons–I was sucked into the story and ended up loving it.
My students have been getting a kick out of my journey into fantasy. They’ve added some more books to my fantasy TBR list and several have already “called” the ones I’m reading as soon as I’m done with them.
But this weekend? This long weekend when there weren’t any students around to see me reading? I fell off the wagon. A book I’d been on the waiting list for at the public library came in. It wasn’t fantasy, and I’m reading it anyway, but I felt guilty about it.
There is a fine line that teachers must walk when it comes to our own reading. Certainly, we have an obligation to read things we can recommend to our students. And it’s really not just an obligation; one of my greatest joys in teaching is knowing exactly the right book to hand to a kid. And I’d be a big liar if I said I didn’t thoroughly enjoy most of the books I read “for the children.” On the flip side of that, though, are our own preferences. Sometimes those don’t line up with our students’ preferences or needs as readers. We still need to read those things, too. I need to feed my own reading preferences, too, to keep my own spark for reading alive. Our students need to see us as real, adult readers. We read for different purposes and sometimes it’s for nothing other than our own entertainment.
I need to fess up to my students. My reading resolution–much like all of my others–was flawed. It wasn’t specific, and it was certainly over ambitious. In my head, “I’m going to read more fantasy” translated to “I have to read only fantasy.” Really? That’s just silly considering how much I love to read other things. Some of my students made over-ambitious resolutions. I will read at least one hour everyday. Others made resolutions that were non-specific, making it hard to gauge success. I will enjoy reading more. Some of my students made goals that, like mine, might take away some of the joy of their reading. That’s exactly the opposite of what I want them to do!
This week I plan to share my resolution breach with them and help them revisit their own.
- What was your goal for your reading life this semester?
- Why did you even make that goal in the first place?
- What things have you done to meet that goal?
- What successes have you had?
- Who else has stumbled a little like me?
- Does your goal need any tweaking?
- How can you refocus on meeting your goal (or your newly tweaked goal)?
Resolutions can be great because they can push us to imagine possibilities, but we can’t just stop with the imagining. Keeping resolutions takes hard work and planning and rethinking and adjusting. I want my students to live reading lives that balance challenging themselves and enjoying themselves. If we re-focus their resolutions, hopefully we can make them a little more realistic and a little less fantasy.
Hattie Maguire is a National Board Certified English teacher and Content Area Leader at Novi High School in Southeast Michigan. When she’s not teaching, she’s busy resolving to do all kinds of things: run 1000 miles in 2016, read 52 books, be a better mom, discover the secret to world peace…you know…realistic things. She is a blogger for the Oakland Schools Literacy blog and would love to connect with you on Twitter @Teacher Hattie.