After we finished reading The Outsiders last week, one of my students looked up from the essay sitting in front of him to ask if he could borrow a copy of the book. He hadn’t missed any of the reading, so I didn’t understand why he’d want a copy of the book we’d just read. When he told me that he wanted to read it again, I almost died. Fireworks exploded over my head as a lightbulb flickered above his. A marching band paraded around the classroom.
It was honestly one of my happiest moments in teaching.
Now, Damien isn’t the type of student that you necessarily blog about. Ever since I first taught him at the very beginning of last year, he’s always blended in. He doesn’t get in trouble and he doesn’t make the honor roll. He played football for awhile and then he quit. He’s not one of the cool kids but he’s not unpopular either. He’s just there.
I haven’t heard him complain about reading before, but he reads at a third grade reading level as an eighth grader, so one can infer that he is not a particularly passionate reader.
And here he is, asking me if he can read a book again.
I told him that there were several loose sequels to The Outsiders and he spent the rest of his work time at my computer with me, browsing through SE Hinton’s other novels. While I didn’t have the very next book in the timeline, I did possess a copy of another one of Hinton’s books, which I lent to him.
That was a week ago. Today, I brought to school a copy of That Was Then, This is Now, the missing link between those books. When I handed it to him, he took it and stashed it in his hoodie. Then, we had the following conversation:
“Hey Damien, when you get a chance could you try to bring the other book back?”
“Oh yeah mister, I’m almost done. I’ve just got like two pages left.”
This kid, this 5-years-behind-grade-level, remediation-needing, regular kid just plowed through an entire book on his own in a week? And now he’s taking another one?
This wasn’t anything I did. This doesn’t make me a great teacher. I literally put one good book in front of him, then another, then another. This kid is being transformational to himself.