This year I taught a book. A whole, entire book. It was very English-teachery of me. My students read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. It is such a great book, and an important book, that I felt all my AP Biology students needed to read it this year. With a generous classroom grant from our local Public School Foundation, I was able to purchase 50 copies of the book, enough to distribute to each of my students.
Here is yet another example of my discomfort this year. I know my kids should read this book. I know this book is important. I know they will learn a lot about biology. I know they will learn about what racism in the field of medicine looked like not too long ago. I know it is a valuable use of class time.
The problem is, I don’t know how to teach a book.
It takes a village…
I reached out to a couple of English teachers in my building, both of whom were very enthusiastic and very helpful in developing my lesson plan. I made a timeline for reading chapter, discussion questions, and designed a culminating project.
Two weeks off of school because of snow and ice put a kink in my time frame, but overall the small group discussions were fruitful, and the culminating projects were eye-opening, for both me and the kids. You can check out a couple of them out here and here.
Another self-imposed challenge checked off my to-do list. Did it go perfectly? Heck no. I need to include more accountability to make sure the students are keeping up with the reading. I need to improve how I facilitate literary circles.
Was this a worthwhile exercise for both my students and me? Absolutely.
Do you have an idea that is a little overwhelming to implement? Reach out to a colleague, even one that is outside your department. Reach out to your wider network of colleagues. Just do something. Do it for the kids.
Sometimes we have to be uncomfortable temporarily to impact our students for the long term.