May 25, 2006

After 9 Years, I Still Get "Learning Experiences"

Yea, I was called to the principal's office today. I was sure I was going to be in so much trouble. You know how much that sucks.

A parent had complained about a book his teen had borrowed from my classroom. I had warned the student that it had swearing in it, and the parent took a lot of offense about the inappropriateness of the book. So, I've probably screwed up on a lot of levels. The book did find its way on the onto the most recent ALA's list of Best Books for Young Adults--on the Top 10 List. It happens to also be one of several books kicking around my room that I learned about at the Renaissance Conference during a session on books for reluctant readers.

But perhaps it should not have found its way to my classroom. A lot of surprising, most likely controversial books, have found their way into the classroom this year, but they are entering through the hands of students. Part of me wonders if I forget that my students are only 8th graders, even though they are often quite mature in their thoughts and reading. And part of me wonders if teens are way too jaded these days, and if we aren't all becoming that way. And part of me wonders if there could ever be a book that someone would not take offense to. I've been down this road before, but it's been a few years, and those books were widely known "classics" that I was teaching in my classroom, as opposed to just some books hanging around for personal reading. I'm not sure it's different. I don't have my justification for having the book around, though. (As opposed to a book that I teach and I plan a justification--just in case.)

I don't know. I do feel awful because this book has caused a lot of stress in a family. No, I'm not in the business of corrupting kids. In fact, I put on my lily-white persona in the classroom to try to steer kids away from what they can't avoid anyway. I totally respect the parent for being concerned and monitoring what his kids are reading. I even told my student this. "Your dad is trying to be a good dad. Not everyone has one of those." The parent keeps close tabs on his kids, but it's a huge contributing factor to the quality of the student, too. He's a really great kid! Anyway, I wouldn't exactly call this situation censorship. The parent he's doing what he feels is the right thing for his family. We need some more of that in our society!

(Oh a side note, this has me wondering if I will ever tell my children they cannot read certain books. I think I'm forming my ideas--make it a later post.)

This has been very stressful. Of course I'm feeling weird and unsettled. And even more exhausted.

And how did my punishment go?

My principal was really good about it. I was expecting something terrible (her approval rating low these days), but she was quite kind, fair, and supportive. Actually, she has always been that way with me, but I do try to stay out of trouble. Of course, I have a new game plan, a little talking to (but not harshly) about attempting to monitor better (my principal acknowledges that we can't know everything), and this has been "chalked up as a learning experience."

And I get to add this to my list of things to do to Cover My Ass (CMA) on a daily basis.

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