Ask a Teacher: How Do You Get Through the Boring Stuff?
Q: What’s the most awful, boring book/chapter/thing you teach? How do you get through teaching it?
A: First, it is important to understand that teachers don’t always have a choice when it comes to what gets taught. We have bosses, too! Some teachers are handed books, and administrators say, “This is what you will teach this year. There will be no exceptions. Here is your pre-made curriculum. Go teach.” So while I understand that sometimes books are boring, please have some sympathy for your teachers because they may not have a choice.
I was lucky to land a job at a school that gives me complete artistic freedom to teach whatever books I want (within reason). Research shows that cross-curricular units help students retain information, so I use the Global History time periods being taught to 10th graders to choose my books. I teach one week of history before bringing up the book to support the Global History Regents Exams that the 10th graders have to take at the end of the year. Then I do my best to choose books that are still socially and personally relevant today.
I also never teach books that I hate. My general rule is that if I hate it, my students will hate it. My blessing and curse as a person is that I’m a bad liar. You can always tell what I’m thinking by the expression on my face; if I feel negatively about something, those feelings will inevitably permeate my classroom. Nobody wants that. If I love a book but my students hate it, I try different teaching methods each year to get students to appreciate what I love in the text.
Teachers realize that not every book is going to be a smash-hit. We know that Animal Farm will probably not be your book of choice for Sunday afternoon reading. What we do hope is that our students have the critical thinking skills to appreciate the value of literature, regardless of the time period in which it takes place. Books connect us to the human experience across time and space, and that is a magical thing.
Miss Dame is the 10th grade English teacher and National Honor Society advisor in the Bronx, NY.
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What's the most boring book you've ever read for school?
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