My week has been completely thrown off kilter, which is why my promised weekend post didn’t happen, and even more so the reason you won’t be getting that intended post even today. Part of me is still formulating how to put together the segment I’m writing, but some of it really has been my crazy week. In any case, an experience I had yesterday is the inspiration for this particular post.
I am currently wrapping up a master’s degree in School Library Media (SLM) (that’s right folks one day I might be a media specialist) and as part of my final requirements I have to intern a certain number of hours. Well, yesterday it was my turn to experience an elementary school in action for a full day. I was actually pretty excited about encountering the ‘smaller’ world that I have very little experience with. I wasn’t disappointed either.
The school I visited is a poster child for diversity. It’s demographics are quite literally 85% Hispanic/Free and Reduced Lunch, 10% African American, 4% Korean/Vietnamese, and 1% Caucasian/White. Being the poster child for what it means to be as white as white bread can be, the day held many cool adventures for me. The school was celebrating Black History Month with an assembly, which was fantastic, and I had the opportunity to talk to many fourth and fifth graders about their experiences in school and their relationship with reading. I still don’t think I could ever teach or be a media specialist in an elementary school, but I’ll be darned if those kids weren’t super adorable.
The setup above leads me into what my post is really all about–Dr. Seuss. I am one of those haughty know-it-alls that believes they’ve read everything the genius of children’s books had
ever written. Oh, I was so wrong. The media specialist I worked with yesterday introduced me to a book that was published after the beloved children’s writer passed back in 1991. (Next week is his birthday!) The book was apparently a project he had been working on for at least two or three years, but it never came to fruition before his passing. His publisher and editors found his original manuscripts and took the liberty of completing and publishing the work. I suppose this could have been done just to make another buck off of his legacy, but I’m going to give his publisher the benefit of the doubt because I am incredibly thankful that his peers decided to complete the book; it is entitled Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!, and it is says in a way that only Dr. Seuss can how badly education needs to change.
You see, my promised post I’ve told everyone about will center around what Dr. Seuss conveys in this very book. I had a sense of pride and encouragement from reading both Seuss’s original words and his collaborator, Jack Prelutsky, rhyme and cadence about celebrating teachers who teach “outside the box” and not “to the test.” Within the book there is a letter from Janet Schulman, Seuss’s editor, about how Seuss had once told her about the creation of this book about teachers, but he didn’t think teachers would like it. Schulman encouraged Seuss that surely teachers would love anything he wrote, and he simply replied that he wasn’t so sure this time. I can see why. Seuss and his collaborators take aim at our, at times, lame education system by showing children being taught the test in a factory assembly line fashion, while the teacher portrayed in the story, Miss Twining, is unorthodox helping students take ownership of their learning and helping them make grandiose connections between seemingly unrelated objects. Miss Twining encourages her students that they will be prepared for their tests and so much more with her teaching style in the story, but the principal and even some of the children aren’t quite sure; there is great uncertainty. Needless to say, the story ends in a way that sheds light on some of the issues we have with both teaching a learning today, but I’ll let you go out and read it and decide you thoughts for yourself.
So I simply want to say: Dr. Seuss, I love you. I say this unashamedly and admiringly. I know there is no way for you to know how much discovering this book means to me, but nonetheless I have to write down my appreciation. Your words, pictures, and passion has encouraged me to continue teaching the way that I am, and push my students to think outside the limits of a test.
Alright, that being stated, it is time to get down to the business of telling you all who care to read about my ever-promised post, or posts, about the program I’ve been developing for well over a year now. The next post you see will start putting the pieces of the program together for you to see. Thanks for hanging in there and taking the time to read.
Now, go out and read some Dr. Seuss; it will do your heart and soul some good.