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Confessions of an English Teacher who Doesn’t Read

June 7, 2013

Summer is almost here, guys, and I for one am getting really excited. I’m a teacher, so summer means an extended vacation from work, and yes, I’ve been looking forward to those blissful days just as much as my students have for months now. This year I have big plans for my summer, and one item near the top of that list is reading.books in 20s

Reading, you say? But don’t you get enough of that during the school year, being an English teacher and all? Well, to put it plainly, no.

It goes without saying that I love to read. I mean, why else would I have majored in English and become a high school English teacher? It’s true that I’ve always been a reader and love curling up with a good book, but the problem is—I can’t remember the last time that actually happened. At school this year my students and I only made it through two full-length books amid the hodge-podge of other curricular pursuits: The Crucible and The Things They Carried. And, while I loved reading and discussing those two great works, the sheer amount of work generated by my job left me entirely bereft of extra time to crack open other books.

This is not a new problem for me. In fact, I’d say it’s been about 10 years since I really regularly found the time to read for pleasure. In high school and college my schedule was jam-packed, and the mountains of required reading for school always seemed to get in the way of me working my way through the best-sellers and classics that called to me from bookstore and library shelves. In the year after college I did manage to read books 1-5 of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, and I’m so glad I did. Shameless plug—they’re awesome, and Snow Whore SERIOUSLY needs to read them. But damn old George hasn’t finished the 6th and 7th books yet, so even that undertaking remains unconcluded. In the meantime I got married, started a Master’s degree, and got my first teaching job. And with that, my pleasure-reading time became as mythical as Westeros and as elusive as a good Martin character who doesn’t die tragically (don’t even get me started on the end of book 5!)

Demotivational_Poster__Teacher_by_theflyingdutchman84I know you’ve heard this before: teaching is a lot of work and we don’t appreciate our teachers enough and blah blah blah. Well, let me just reiterate it again, because nothing could be more true. I can’t imagine too many jobs that cut into your spare time more than teaching high school English, at least based on my experience this year. I know, I’ll assign them an essay, and how about a couple of worksheets on the side? Sounds like a reasonable week’s work. Flashforward to the end of the week: Mrs. Cinderslut has 100 essays and 200 worksheets to grade over the weekend! Hurrah! You want to know why your high school English teachers always assigned such depressing books? Because they were suicidal!

Ok, perhaps I’m being a tad overdramatic. I love my job, but add to that the fact that most weeks I also have to write an essay or two for my Master’s degree, and you can easily see why I no longer read for fun. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, the week, the month, or the school year. And frankly, that’s sad. Because as an English teacher I know better than anyone the positive effect reading can have on academic achievement and on a person themselves. I cajole, order, and even beg my students to read, but I’m not truly modeling it myself. There’s something wrong with this picture.

The one exception is my nightly tradition of reading out loud with my hubby. Although what that usually looks like is my hubby reading to me while I fall asleep on his chest. At 9 pm. While I love that intimate time together, and we have slowly made our way through some good books, it’s not the same thing as getting hooked on a book and devouring it in a day, or spending hours relaxing with one of your long-time favorites.

The thing that brought this dearth of literature lovin’ to my mind (aside from the summer countdown I’ve had on the board in my class for the last month) was a link I recently saw entitled “65 Books You Need to Read in Your 20s.” Of course, I clicked, only to realize that, to my horror, my twenties are nigh on halfway over, and I have only read ONE of the books on the list (and sadly, it’s not #33). And thus my summer quest to rediscover my inner reader. I’m ready to rack up quite a bill on my kindle and waste away sunny days on the balcony, breathing in the scent of jasmine and sipping coffee. Keep me accountable, fellow Princesses, because I’ve made resolutions like this before and failed to keep them. Hell, maybe I’ll even start with some good ol’ Shakespeare, because despite what The Little Merskank says, I do like him.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. thelittlemerskank permalink*
    June 7, 2013 12:37 pm

    You have my sympathies Cinderslut. I too struggle to find time to read for pleasure, even though I used to be an avid consumer of fiction. For me, this is partially because so much of what I do involves reading endless articles as well as obscure technical works in Latin. So sometimes it seems strange to take a break from reading to, well, read. I still do read for fun though, even if not the extremes I did in high school. I actually just read The Unbearable Lightness of Being, an unusual book.

    I do have one comment though- I feel like that list of ‘books to read in your twenties’ is not really that great of a list. To be fair, I have only read four books on it (whereas I have read well over half on BBC’s list: http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/bigread/top100.shtml), but really the four I read I didn’t like that much. I therefore distrust this list. But just my opinion of course.

    But most of all: enjoy some reading this summer!

    • June 8, 2013 6:47 am

      Ok, well, forget the list. I’ll just take book recommendations from you. Though I have to say I have been slogging my way through Anna Karenina for months now and have yet to be impressed. But anything non-Russian should be a safe bet…

      • thelittlemerskank permalink*
        June 8, 2013 7:18 am

        Not liking Anna Karenina?! I blame the translation! But if you really don’t like the Russians, I would be worried about recommending any others of my favourites. All my favourite books have a streak of Russianism about them- even if they were written by non-Russian authors. I love the Russian spirit.

        p.s. you can’t be too hard on Anna Karenina or you will make me sad- since it is mine and Percival’s special book…

  2. June 7, 2013 6:48 pm

    As a fellow teacher, I understand you anticipation of summer vacation. Good luck with your reading!

    And by the way, the first year of teaching is absolutely the hardest. It gets better.

  3. June 8, 2013 8:20 am

    Merskank–I will try not to be too hard on AK. I just find it intolerably slow-moving…which I guess explains why it is your and Percival’s special book.

    • thelittlemerskank permalink*
      June 8, 2013 8:24 am

      Haha, I love you Cindy 🙂

  4. June 11, 2013 1:43 pm

    Great article! I am always looking for a good read. I’ve been wanting to ready #8, “Lucy” by Jamaica Kinkaid for a while now. Have you read it? Which books are your fave on the list that you have read?

    Thanks!

    Xoxo,
    Jade
    http://www.thebloomingjade.com

  5. LiteraryJunky permalink
    July 3, 2013 1:14 pm

    As a fellow high school English teacher in her mid-twenties, I completely relate. Unfortunately, this summer I’ve picked up so many books from the library in the last month that I’m getting overwhelmed with my reading goals!

    Also, if it’s not the one you’ve already read, I have to highly, highly recommend Ready Player One from this list! Loved it!

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