professornana (professornana) wrote,

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How much is too much?

I do not think I am any different from the average educator when it comes to evaluation time. For me, that time comes 3 times a year as students complete their evaluation forms and I am handed a report. I was prepared for the summaries from the fall. Some students had struggled and earned not-an-A. Evaluations tend to be lower when this happens. It is, I suppose, human nature. If a student receives not-an-A, it is somehow the fault of the instructor. And I do take some of the blame certainly. I want all students to succeed in class. I would be happy if my grade curve looked like this:

and not like this:

And, often, it does. But students earn grades, I do not assign them per se. So, in a semester when there are more than a few not-an-A grades, I know my scores will reflect this. But there is something that bothers me even more than the numbers. I know I am not a number any more than a kid is a number. No, what concerns me are the comments where students (and there is at least one per semester if not more) decry the reading load required of the class, especially the one for YA literature.

I require 25 books. I assign 11 and then give choices for the other 14 (limited to lists, authors, etc., but still choice). I know this is a mountain of reading. However, if you want to become a school librarian (and that is the goal of all students in our program), knowing 25 books seems almost like a drop in the bucket (Note: the reading load for children's list is 75-80 books since many are picture books. And second note: This is a PK-12 certification). I guess I could cut back to 20 books, but then which ones fall by the wayside? Should I eliminate having them read a book by Crutcher, Smith, or Green? Maybe I could not have them select from BFYA or Quick Picks or Great Graphic Novels or Printz books? Or perhaps one of the required books could be jettisoned?

1. Alexie, S. (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. NY: Little Brown.
2. Anderson, L. H. (1999). Speak. NY: Penguin
3. Bell, C. (2014). El Deafo. NY: Abrams
4. Garden, N. (1982). Annie on my mind. NY: FSG
5. Gino, A. (2015). George. NY: Scholastic.
6. Harris, R. (2009). It’s perfectly normal. Boston, MA: Candlewick Press
7. Myers, W. D. (1999). Monster. NY: Harper.
8. Ness, P. (2008). The knife of never letting go. Boston, MA: Candlewick Press
9. Quintero, I. (2014). Gabi: A girl in pieces. TX: Cinco Puntos
10. Sartrapi, M. (2004). Persepolis. NY: Pantheon.
11. Woodson, J. (2014). Brown Girl Dreaming. NY: Nancy Paulsen Books

There is no good answer, right? So, while I do switch books and authors from time to time, the basic requirements stay. There is a good reason for this, I think. And I was reminded of it this past weekend at the TCTELA conference. Donalyn Miller and Karin Perry and I did a session called YES THEY CAN! AND THEY DID! BEFORE THEY WERE FAMOUS. I know that Amazon had wish lists that grew. I know some of us ordered books. Donalyn and Karin and I talk books all the time. We add to our own wish lists. We are fed by our #bookaday group, by posts to Twitter and Facebook, by conference sessions. There is no end in sight for the reading I fell I need to do to keep as current as I can.

Last year, I read close to 800 books. It sounds impressive until you realize that 5000+ books were published last year. That nets out at about 16% for me. For my students, the net is less than 1/10 of 1%, and they are reading books spanning decades. So, is it too much to expect 25 books? I have to answer a resounding NO! The evaluations are in the drawer along with the comments about the too-much-reading. They chafe a bit, but I would rather chafe than be the person who has a reading list of 10 books for someone who wants to help kids become lifelong readers. Now, I think, I will do some reading over my cup of soup.
Tags: numbers

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