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For the Love of Teaching
And Other Reasons Teachers Do What They Do
Interview Portraits by Ira D. Shull

From “Life Work” (continued)

The summer after my first year of teaching at Noble, I sent a letter to the kids in my class that said, ‘If I run a summer book club, would you come?’ There was a pervasive attitude at the school that reading was not a cool thing. But there was this healthy little clan of readers who, once they found out you had a lot of books to lend, would end up in your room after school. I ended up that summer getting seventeen kids.
I chose four contemporary novels that were challenging but were not the kinds of novels they would read in school. I wanted to test how kids would respond to some riskier topics and different kinds of narrative structure. We met every couple of weeks over that summer, on the beach or at somebody’s house. We played games and did a lot of social things, which was one of the reasons I think I got seventeen kids. Then we’d spend an hour and a half just sitting around talking about one of the books we’d selected. It was probably one of the most transcendent teaching experiences I’ve ever had.
I think it gets at something that’s true of a lot of teachers I know: teaching is not just something I do. How it goes with a class cuts to the very heart of who I am as a person. I can’t leave it in my office and go home and be free of it. And I think that’s part of the challenge. There are all kinds of variables you can’t control. It doesn’t necessarily have to do with how well you prepare. You have to take what you get in front of you every day.

All excerpts from For the Love of Teaching,
Copyright 1998 by Ira D. Shull

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