The Harm We Can Do

Pinocchio by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier, on FlickrSara Kadjer shared “Can Reading Logs Ruin Reading for Kids?” from The Atlantic. The piece dredged up some memories for me, good and bad.

I guess I am an oddity, but I always loved tracking what I read when I was in school. Reading doesn’t really come with a tangible thing to point to when you’re done, and those logs let me say, “Look, I did all this!”

I know there are problems with the pedagogy when tracking takes away from the joy of reading. It made me recall Troy Hicks’ recent blog post on the troubling need to quantify everything students do.

That leads me to my bad memory. On the first day of class in 9th grade, the teacher asked us to write down all the things we read over the summer. I busied myself with a list in categories: mysteries, biographies, historical fiction, and so forth. I had to think in categories to remember them all. As I scribbled titles down, the teacher moved through the classroom. She paused at my desk, and I expected her to be impressed with the list of all the things I had read. Unfortunately, she instead announced to the full class that I had to be lying because no one read that many different books.

I try to remember that moment to remind myself that the long-term harm of my comments as a teacher can last forever. After all, I was in 9th grade a very, very long time ago; and I still remember that moment of shame very well.

 
Image: Pinocchio by Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier, on Flickr, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

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