My Teacher Bag is a thing of mythic proportions. It is big. It is heavy. It is strategically packed. It is a thing of beauty. Over the years I have refined my Teacher Bag so that it is no longer something that mocks me from the corners of my living room ("Why haven't you opened me and graded all these assessments yet? Grey's Anatomy Shrey's Anatomy...I'm watching yoooooouuuuu.") but is something with which I can effectively finish up remains of the day, tweak my plans for the next and, in all honesty, probably Macguyver you a new alarm clock. I'm just sayin'.
One day, before a looooooooonnnnnggg field trip which required an even loooooonnnger (think epic like red sea epic) bus ride, one of my friends glanced in my bag and gasped in surprise.
"Mrs. Mimi, what's that?!" he said increduously.
Panicked I glanced over, mentally steeling myself for a conversation about tampons when I discovered that my friend was pointing at my book. Not my math manual or the tome of tests I had yet to grade, but my personal reading book. (Yes, I always have a book with me. Always. I HATE waiting and a book makes me feel less stabby when I have to.) I actually even remember what book it was. It was the first book in the first book in the Twilight series. (I know. I know. And they weren't even that cool yet...I know.)
"Oh, that's my book."
"The book you are reading to us? That doesn't look like Judy Moody."
"It's not. It's my own book. That I read for myself. On the train or before I go to bed."
"You read?" (blink, blink)
"All the time."
"What's your book about?" (still suspicious)
I don't think that particular friend will go glancing in a teacher's bag again, however, word of this insane reading nonsense spread around the room like wildfire.
Psssssttttt....Did you know that Mrs. Mimi reads every night before she goes to bed?
Hey....did you know that Mrs. Mimi is reading a book that she hasn't shared with us? It's about vampires!
And that's when it hit me. My friends had never seen me read. Sure I read aloud to them every day, I read their books, I read with them, I read from the board, but in their presence, I never read for myself. (I mean, I would actually have to sit down and take a breath for that to happen and we all know that that is a luxury teachers don't often had.) While I knew that I was never going to be able to sit and read while they read (because she-who-shall-remain-nameless would flip her Weave and we all know I wanted to avoid that like the plague), I realized I had to share my reading life with my class. Show them the book I was reading. Talk about my reading. Wave my nerd flag and wave it proudly.
Chapter 5 of The Book Whisperer advocates for just that. That we share our reading lives and our love of reading with our students. Because we can't fake it. They are too smart for that and I agree with Ms. Miller that authenticity is everything with kids.
It also means reading the books our friends are reading. Have you ever had this happen:
Teacher: How is your reading going?
Teacher: Can you tell me about the story so far?
Student: (Launches into long and detailed explanation that sounds pretty good but honestly, you haven't read the book and they could totally be pulling one over on you, but what are you going to say because, without reading the book, you don't have a leg to stand on....)
Teacher: Sounds fantastic! (Ugh.)
Can we read every book in our classroom libraries? Probably not this year. Should we be reading the books our friends are reading? Hells, yes. I'm not sure how else you do it.
I love these last lines from the chapter. They remind me how important it is to bring your authentic self to the classroom each and everyday and how critical that we turn lists of strategies and requirements and standards into something truly inspired. "The reality is that you cannot inspire others to do what you are not inspired to do yourself."