And this is why this challenge is so much fun!
Yesterday, I was sitting in my classroom during a colleague’s class talking to a former student of mine. I had him as a freshman and now he’s a junior — I was reading my book and trying to stay out the way. (Since my student intern took over some of my afternoon classes, I’ve had some extra time! I’m usually fairly productive, but sometimes I just bother Sunshine when she’s teaching and read books. )
The student asked me what I was reading. I said it was a detective story that takes place in Ghana. The student, Denzel, just kinda looked at me for a long time and then said, “You know, I’m from there, right?” I was so excited! He even speaks Ewe — which I have been pronouncing like ewe, female sheep, but I learned today is actually eh-way…which makes a lot more sense. Of course, had I looked in the glossary in the back, I would have figured that out before today.
Denzel went through the glossary with me and helped me pronounce all of the Ewe words. He talked about his memories of growing up in Accra and about how much he’d love to go back someday. Then he told me that he was going to have his mom make me banku and okra soup and he’d bring it to school for me because it was the best thing in the world. (I know…isn’t that amazing?!? Although, I don’t know how that conversation will go over with mom. “Hey mom, a teacher at school needs to try your soup. I told her you’d make her some.”)
Then another student walked up and said, “I’m from Ethiopia. What are you going to read from Ethiopia?” (I told him…but you’ll have to wait and see!)
I just feel really lucky to work in a school with a diverse population. And I really wish the students at my school realized how cool it is to share space with people who’ve lived all over the world! I feel like at the beginning of the school year we should go all Olympics on the student body at the first assembly — have representative groups of students walk in holding their home country’s flag. Or not. Just sounds fun! (I’m sure there is some way that could go terribly wrong too — but I’m not managing to figure it out quite yet.)
I also had the opportunity to talk to some of the sophomore English classes about microfinancing. They are doing a project that links persuasive writing techniques and raising money for charitable organizations of their choice. I got to go in and get them excited about setting up their own fundraisers. One class realized that if they each gave up coffees for a week, they could earn enough to fund someone’s entire loan. I feel so blessed that I was invited in to speak about something important to me. (Isn’t my department awesome? Combining reading, writing, and social awareness! We just finished a food unit in junior English, sophomores are raising money for important causes. Exciting things happening. English class: Not just about reading Shakespeare anymore. Although, ps, we still read Shakespeare. I mean, right?
So yeah…it’s been fun to see how much this SMALL decision to do a reading challenge has impacted my day to day life! From the giving to Bernadette and others, to the small conversations it starts with students, to the people all over the world I’m meeting and talking with! I thought I was just going to read 80 books and write about it…but it is really a lot more than that.