Some good things happened at school recently that have borne out my decades-long advocacy of selecting texts that meet the students’ needs, interests and abilities rather than falling back on The Canon and what we think is both Good For Them and in our comfort zone as teachers.
I share a pretty disengaged Year 10 class with my HT. We decided to teach @claire_zorn’s One Would Think the Deep this term, and it was such a great choice. When my HT read them the first couple of chapters in class, she said you could have heard the proverbial pin drop.
If you don’t know the book, it’s a multi-award-winning YA (#LoveOzYa) novel about grief and loss, masculinity and love, surfing, sex and scratching your way painfully toward adulthood.
My colleague is doing literacy-focused work with the class, while I am doing focused work on character and so on: the novel as an engaging narrative experience.

One of the boys in this class is just hanging on until he can start his apprenticeship.
He’s done very little work all year. On Friday, I ran a lesson where the kids had to select character strengths from a kind of well-being chart and apply them to three characters from the novel. Every one of them became really quickly absorbed. This boy didn’t do the work,
but instead spent the entire period reading the novel, entirely of his own accord. I asked him, are you enjoying it? Yes, he said, it’s really good.

If he leaves Year 10 having read one book that he really enjoyed and responded to, after years of avoiding any kind of work
in Subject English, if he now knows that books can be pleasurable and inspiring and engaging, then I am so bloody happy about that I can’t even begin to desvrine.
The other thing was that I wrote the Year 9 exam, which the kids did online because we were still in lockdown at that point. We do a science fiction unit of work with Year 9, which we need to assess in the exam.
For the reading task, I chose an extract from an SF story written by the great children’s author, Katherine Paterson (“The Last Dog”). And guess what, gentle reader? Across the board, the kids did really well.
I know, because I marked it. They understood the language, and the emotional “human experience” aspect of the text was pitched exactly at them. Because it was written for them.

We bang on about audience and purpose but we don’t then consider those things in our text selection.
So many of our kids are non-readers, and then we hit them in Year 8 with short stories written in the 1950s for an educated English readership (Roald Dahl), or Fahrenheit 451 in Year 9, Ursula LeGuin in English Studies #ffs and expect them, with zero reading stamina
and less than zero cultural or linguistic references to be able to read and respond meaningfully to them.

Here’s the thing: we have a wealth of literature written for young Australian readers what we could be giving our students to read, but instead we seem hell bent
on simply replicating the canon, because that’s what we were taught, and because we are now English teachers, were successful in our studies. We do this over and over again, ignoring student disengagement and crap outcomes.
For many of us, teaching in disadvantaged and/or remote communities, we are academically nothing like the kids we teach, and we are doing them a huge disservice by expecting them to go from zero to Kafka in one fell swoop.
So here’s my plea to@my fellow English teachers, borne out by the vindication of my recent experience in choosing texts that the students find meaningful and will respond to:

Challenge the canon.
Challenge your own comfort zone.
Put your students’ needs first.
Read widely and learn to respect the huge body of work created by contemporary writers of children’s and YA literature.

Trust me, it will be transformative.

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Judith Ridge

Judith Ridge Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @msmisrule

6 Nov
A couple of years ago I weeded this book from the school library, but not before I took some photos of. Then I forgot about the photos until I had to clear space on my phone. Here, for your tweeting pleasure, are some of the greatest hairstyles of the 90s. #hairstylefile
I like to call this one the Sydney Opera House, although it was tempting to start the whole NSW V Victoria Scallops war again...
Staying with the Australian theme, I give you The Wave Rock:
Read 18 tweets
23 Oct
My final observation on teaching from home before return to school on Monday. As you will remember, schools were reassured several times about the need for consistency and an ability to plan ahead. So in good faith that's what we did. Executive staff put in ridiculous hours...
planning what school would look like based on dates that shifted several times. So every time that happened, everything had to be re-organised. The new Premier's unilateral decision to bring us back a week early, released to the media first, of course, less than 24 hours
after the DoE's Secretary released a video to staff assuring us that nothing would change, so thereby putting her in the doghouse along with all our carefully laid plans... For my school, this meant we were now coming back to school in the middle of our two week exam period.
Read 11 tweets
17 Oct
Saw my sister, niece and niece’s partner for the first time today in months. Lovely vegan lunch, wonderful to catch up, then sister and I went for a long walk. Now feet are killing me. Orthotic walking shoes hurting more than helping. 😭
We went to the local dog park and watched the shenanigans, although it got a bit too serious at one point and a poor, anxious corgi got picked up and shook by a big dog who smelt its fear. I like dogs but things can go very bad very quickly.
The big dog’s owners were clearly shocked and got him out of there. Little corgi was OK but still very fearful.

We had a long chat with a couple with an Irish wolfhound called Kat (their 8th!) and there was also a glossy black 14 week old Irish Mastiff who has feet
Read 7 tweets
14 Aug
I thought people might appreciate a bit of an insight into how things are for teachers during lockdown. Please note this is just my personal experience, and is not a whinge or a plea for sympathy. I am fine, but it's hard, and all kinds of things are out of our control.
My load this year is 3 days English, 2 days library. At the start of lockdown, I had just one class (Year 8) that I didn't share at least one period with other teachers. My HT and I share a Year 9 and a Year 10 class, and I had one or two periods of other people's Year 8 classes.
Once lockdown started, this is how responsibility for posting work went: obviously, I'm 100% responsible for my own Year 8 class, and I took on the main responsibility for another Year 8 class where the split was 4/3 and the other teacher has young kids at home.
Read 24 tweets
16 Mar 20
All day I have been listening to experts talk about the pros and cons of closing schools. Not a SINGLE ONE has mentioned the health and well-being of the teachers and admin and other adult staff who keep schools open every day.
They talk about how children are not at risk, but neglect to consider the risk to the adults who work in schools who may be pregnant, immune-compromised, diabetic, asthmatic, with any number of health issues that allow them to work, but make them vulnerable to COVID-19.
I mean, I’ve known since I was an undergraduate how badly people disrespect teachers, but I didn’t realise until this week that we were considered so utterly dispensable.
Read 10 tweets
19 Feb 20
Following this thread from earlier in the term, I'm continuing to do book talks to promote wide reading with English classes from various grades. (3 in one day on Monday! Phew!) Talking one-on-one to the kids about their reading habits (or lack thereof) is proving very revealing.
I'm really explicit with the kids about why reading for pleasure is important, but also with the Year 10s I really hammer home that if they do not start right now building up their focus and attention soan, their reading muscles, then they are going to be at a huge disadvantage.
Of course, the non-readers already are, and they have a real battle ahead to make new habits and lost ground.

Anyway, here's what the non-readers seem to be consistently suggesting to me: they have this idea that to read a book, you have to READ THE BOOK:
Read 21 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!