This blog post today is specifically for the Madison County Public School District in Madison, Mississippi. As I sit at my computer this morning ready to fight for something worthwhile, I am shaking with disappointment. SO….
To Whom It May Concern:
I am no longer an employee of yours, but your state, town, schools, faculty, administrators, and students are very much still apart of my daily thoughts. Heart and soul is what I poured into your district for five wonderful years. I began my teaching career in Los Angeles, California, then moved to teaching in Tampa, Florida, and then ended in Madison, Mississippi. I read to my students every year whether I taught language arts, ancient civilizations, Mississippi history, social studies, or yearbook. And every year, it was the same book… which eventually became the same series. I had administrators in every school trust and encourage my passion for The Giver and the series surrounding it. The lessons, truly remarkable life lessons, that stemmed from those readings never let me down. I’m not going to push a book that I don’t feel is worthy of creating something magical for children. What this series accomplishes is nothing short of heart wrenching… in a good way. We even had our math teacher, Mel Lanke, so encouraged by this series that she took time to read it to her students in math. Any book that fosters such a love of learning can’t be dismissed.
Unfortunately, I hear that you are not approving this series for next year at Madison Crossing. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine why in the world you would take away from teachers and students something that has proven itself to be instrumental in affecting the lives of students. Maybe you should walk the halls and interview or just peek in on the kids and teachers reading it and discussing it. Maybe you should reconsider for Common Core’s sake even. Aren’t we supposed to be engaging our students through complexity of text? Aren’t we supposed to be rigorously raising the bar on academic expectations? This series, along with Lois Lowry’s memoir and her Number the Stars was a year long author study that not only provided such great in depth conversations about the beauty in our lives, but it also allowed for such intellectual discussion on literary devices, recurring themes from an author, and really immersing one’s self into the world of an author.
I strongly encourage you to read the following blog posts that I wrote last year. I wrote my way through the year, journaling every wonderful moment with my students because of these books. I encourage you to not just read the posts, but the comments from students as well. We had teachers and principals from all over the district and state visiting our classrooms because of what we were doing with these books. Dare I say, you are wrong. You are wrong to take this away. I’d like to know if the committee that chose to disapprove this series has even read the series.
I’m not a fighter. But I do take huge stands in the world of education. I am passionate about teaching children through literature. I am passionate about instilling a love of reading in students who are reluctant. I am passionate about using emotion and inspiration to engage a child in my classroom. That is what this series does. I am confident that the ones making this decision are unaware of so many things. How could they possibly know what these books have accomplished? What are they basing their decisions on? Hopefully not Google or some site that says that they are controversial. Because if that is the case, the decision makers are replacing trust in educators with ignorance. I do not apologize for this fight I find myself battling. This is exactly why people are fighting Common Core. Because, simply put, we don’t need non teaching adults to tell teaching adults what is and isn’t acceptable for the classroom. Top down politics are in play here and that is so disheartening. To assume the role of rule maker and lesson planner and book chooser without ever having read the book or taught it is, for lack of a better term, insane.
I’ve heard your reasons and with all due respect, they are misguided. As teachers, we can teach lessons about standing up to bullies or fighting for a belief. As teachers we can teach lessons about past wars and tragedies. But how do we do that effectively without the examples of war and bullying? Without examples of despair, how can we give hope?
Below are the links to my posts. Don’t walk away from this decision until you have read them. If you do, you are doing a disservice to the wonderful teachers on the fifth grade team at Madison Crossing. More importantly, though, you are doing a disservice to the amazing young minds just waiting to bloom and blossom.