Archives for Learning from Literature
If you haven't heard this latest buzz phrase, you will soon. Standardized tests and schools alike are shifting their focus towards cultivating not just more reading, but reading that is deep, thoughtful, purposeful...close reading. This is good news, because close reading is one of the skills that well-prepared, informed, mentally active and employable adults need in order to thrive in our increasingly complex and sophisticated world.
Dear Friends, The other day I had a wonderful conversation with one of my older students. He was brimming over with enthusiasm for his senior-level College Reading class. It's really more a structured study period than a class, in which students come in every day and spend the entire 48-minute period silently reading a book of their choice. When they're finished they write a brief summary of the book and then select another. The whole point, of course, is to get college-bound seniors used to the discipline of sustained, focused reading. And this particular student was loving it! As soon as he left I grabbed my notebook and jotted down everything I could remember of what he had said so I could share with you this glimpse into the head of an older, more mature student. (Read on, dear parents of tweens, and take heart!):
Dear Friends, I get a kick out of the recent Volkswagen commercial in which two guys pile into their Passat for a road trip, and then the passenger is appalled when his driver pal announces that instead of listening to music they're going to learn a language. Thirteen hours later, the buddies climb out of the car at a rest stop; the friend is still highly annoyed, and he rants and fumes at his companion...in fluent Spanish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3D65jLwj-0 My own kids passed a good chunk of their childhoods in the car; I've always been an eager and ambitious traveler, so we spent virtually every school break driving somewhere. And we made those hours pass by listening to books on tape.
Do you practice mindfulness? I try to live "in the moment" as much as possible, every day. There's something about focusing on the present that keeps me feeling stronger, more grounded, happier, more able to cope. Yet, a big part of being human involves being aware of the past with all its traumas, and the future with all its worries. In her memoir, The Next Fifteen Minutes, Kim Kircher presents an intriguing and useful version of mindfulness. Kim is a ski area patroller and emergency medical technician. Part of her training involved learning how to cope with crises fifteen minutes at a time, which strikes me as a perfectly practical "chunk" of mindfulness.
For Mental Health Awareness Day, I've picked out five of the most amazingly informative, life-changing mental health books I've ever read: Loneliness; Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by John Cacioppo and William Patrick The Noonday Demon; an Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon Against Depression by Peter D. Kramer Woman; an Intimate Geography by Natalie Angiers