A Reflection as the War on Books in our Schools Continues…

If you were to enter my classroom back in 2009 and reach under the industrial desk chair combo with the blue seat and fake woodgrain desktop to the wire basket underneath, you’d find a copy of the textbook for each of my classes (Earth Science and Integrated Science at the time), and a worn copy of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton.

When I started teaching Earth Science to high school students in a large, urban school district back in 2009, I read aloud to them.

I read Jurassic Park 15 minutes per day, every other day, to a room of 16-18 year-olds. I had a class set so they could follow along if they chose to (h/t to my media specialist who made it happen), or they could just sit and listen.

I can’t take all the credit- I’m sure someone mentioned the benefits of reading aloud to older students to me since I was new, but I embraced it and ran with it. I’m sure there are myriad reasons that this practice is positive for learning outcomes, increasing literacy, and improving many different skills in the English/Language Arts classroom. The reason I was reading aloud had little to do with that- I wanted students to love science and get excited about learning.

Jurassic Park is undoubtedly fiction and we had standards to cover- standards that were NOT part of the novel. However, using the book as a jumping off point to discuss whether or not the plot seemed feasible and whether or not the science seemed “real” to my students elicited some of the best conversations.

Were there books that were more closely aligned to the curriculum? Yup. Without a doubt.
Did dedicating this kind of time to a novel mean that we wouldn’t get to our lessons that year? Nope. We adjusted and moved forward.
Were there occasionally inappropriate sections to the book? Yup. Nothing that my students weren’t regularly exposed to.

When a 17 year-old gang member would stay after to ask about a plot point from that day or try to get me to spill about what would happen next or would ask if they could bring a copy home because they just couldn’t wait, it made every moment worth it.

More recently, I had a conversation with Dr. Chris Emdin where he shared, “Build your teacher identity on the bedrock of your best moments.”

Reading Jurassic Park to those students is part of my bedrock.