Investigating New Territory Through The World of Writing
So I am still reading this book. If you can call it that. I seem to be reading more on my phone and my kindle these days – Cutting for Stone recommended by my good friend Katie Allen. When I started it, I just wasn’t really that excited about it. But, like always the books that Kate recommends kind of sneak up on you. The last one she told me I absolutely had to read was by Ivan Doig, The Whistling Season. It was such a quiet book. I grieved it when I finished.
Now, I’m making these connections between the new concepts I am integrating into my teaching and the book I am reading. A few years ago we had Learner Exit Outcomes. This was a great idea aiming for what each student should work toward becoming. The Learner Profile in the International Baccalaureate Curriculum is very similar. A focus on positive attitudes encourages the development of a peaceful and productive, self reflective individual. Part of the aim of IB (International Baccaleaureate) is to help students uncover their learning through investigation and inquiry.
Maybe being “open minded” wasn’t the best of the ten attitudes to start with for children age 6 and 7. Its quite a broad idea, it turns out – not so simple to teach. Even as an adult I am trying to see how I need to challenge myself to be more open minded. People who know me well will certainly argue, “you’re so open minded already” And I think I am, about ideas. But, what am I doing to become more open minded about people who live differently than myself yet struggle in the same humanness we share? How am I expanding my own personal experiences to make sure my world understanding is broad enough for my students and challenges me to continue to grow as a learning human being?
Since I have not been able to travel during the last thirteen years while raising children, I have become a little too comfortable in my very white, upper middle class neighborhood. People have not really challenged me to think outside my suburban box. So I find myself reading this book slowly. While I won’t share any spoilers, I want to paint just a brief picture of this story in contrast to my own. The setting is Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Other than the very stereotypical pictures I saw on the news in the 1980’s of bloated, dark eyed babes crying as the cameras negotiated swarms of flies, I really don’t have a lot of prior knowledge to pull from. The author does a beautiful job of bringing the reader into this metropolis. Since I am a teacher and a mother, I can make some personal connections with the main characters who hold “caretaker” roles. The context, however, is completely medical. Understanding a story through the lens of medicine is not how I would willingly chose to spend my Saturday afternoon. Still, the language and experiences are compelling, the voice of the main character, heartbreaking. Just the opening chapters of the book are exhausting. Right now, I’m teaching my students about small moments. This author takes his small moments and helps you to feel it, smell it. The thought process going on in the head of the main character and the other characters makes the reader intimately aware of their struggles. Even in the context of medicine. Even through the eyes of characters I thought I could never hold a personal attachment, I am riveted.
According to my Kindle, I’m only 49% in. Whenever I read in the car on my new Droid with a Kindle app it switches automatically from the last page I read on the Kindle. Totally Weird. So I really couldn’t tell you what page I am on. Part of me is longing to go to the library and get it out just to feel the pages between my fingers. As I breeze through Barnes and Noble I notice it is now in paperback, smaller and cleaner to be held in your hands, but not too small so you can’t read the text. Should I try to read the whole book electronically? What does it mean that I am no longer giving my money to independent book sellers because I can get it right now, in thirty second from Amazon? Maybe I should just keep putting myself in that zone of “not quite comfortable” because it is challenging me to be more open minded.