The Old College Try: Summer Breaks for No One!


I love summer vacation.  Before, I found myself regularly stretching out on under an umbrella on a lounging chair along the side of a monstrous pool in Florida.  If it’s before 11am, there’d be coffee in my mug, after 11am, and I’ll have either an Arnold Palmer (50-50 mix of ice tea and lemonade) or a banana daiqueri.  What best?  The pile of leisure books and magazines to tear through over the course of the 1-2 weeks.

Of course, I’m learning that with a 1 year old boy, the landscape of that vacation is changing drastically.  Since vacationing for part of our time with my in-laws, I’ve found just enough time to make it about 3/4s of the way through one book and about 1/2 through a graphic novel (which I’ve read before bed after the boy is asleep).  Needless to say, free reading is a luxury I’m finding to be sparse.  So one would think my reading selections would have to be the most enjoyable and relaxing.  My choice?  Readicide by Kelly Gallagher.

I’ll keep this short.  The book is one I received my from my high school department chair last summer, but I only had a limited time to skim through it–and frankly, not much stuck.  Still, I felt like it was a book that I’d connect with so I put it in my “to read” pile.  It discusses how primary and secondary school (primarily public, but also private) are essentially killing readers today–not just tv, video games, and lazy kids.  Government sponsored programs such All Children Left Behind (a more appropriate name for that abortion of an education program) that pushes a “standardized testing” curriculum.  Anyone associated with education today knows the “joys” of this.  More important than just pointing out literally dozens of studies and research-based results, Gallagher presents the reader with a number of different strategies and methods for helping to step away from creating shallow, disinterested students and helping encourage both critical and appreciative readers.

I tend to take professional development books like this and measure them to how well they “ring true” with me in order to determine its overall value.  There are a number of points he brings up where I feel like I can pat myself on the back for being progressive and a part of a cutting edge movement.  But where I know that this book is good for me to read is that at the same time, it brings up a couple problems of ineffective teachers where I find myself running a little too close to the border.  Books that challenge us to be more self-reflective and rethink what we’re doing are good.  They make us better.  And for this, our students have a better chance at getting a little more out of their class with us.

So, I’ll be spending some time reviewing my planned coursework for this fall.  Since Developmental English falls somewhere between 12th grade English and Freshman English, much of this reading will transfer easily.  So, despite it being summer, I suppose professional development breaks for no teacher!

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About fhelvie

I live in CT with my wife and two sons. I am also writing my doctoral dissertation, which is focused on the relationship between American literature and comic book superheroes. I have served as a panelist at a number of conferences discussing my research in comics, medieval literature, and pedagogy. Most recently, I had the good fortune to present at the New York Comic Con. In addition to my work in comics scholarship, I'm also a full-time professor of developmental English.
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