Saturday, February 20, 2010

An Evening with Neil Gaiman and a Reflection on Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

Last Thursday evening, I - accompanied by several students, my husband and dad, @maporch, @theprofspage and her mom, and our school librarians - attended a reading and talk with Neil Gaiman sponsored by our local university. The author has been one of my favorites since my husband first introduced me to the Sandman series (my first comic books) when I was in college, so this was an exciting time, indeed :) It was also a HUGE experience for our kids. Their comments included the following:

"My adjective would have to be AWESOME!"
"I loved 'Orange'!"
"Can we make up a creative writing activity like that?"

And the adjective my husband picked was "charming." I'll try not to concern myself too much with the possibility that he's been bewitched by Mr. Gaiman.

The author mentioned that it was his first time in Alabama, and he touched on the notion that publishers don't really believe there's much of an audience here in the South. He discusses this further on his own blog.

Perhaps those publishers share a perception that literacy and love of language are somewhat spotty in this area of the map. And unfortunately that perception and the resulting lack of visiting authors, artists, etc. can lead to a dearth of cultural experiences for our kids. Thus, the potential for developing that love of language takes a bit of a hit.

So, nerd that I am, this self-fulfilling prophecy thing gets me thinking about my classroom.

I have a tendency to say to myself, "Let's try [insert cool new thing here] with the AP classes. They'll behave. Any other class probably wouldn't get it."

I am at times blocking my kids from things that could genuinely affect their love of language, appreciation for learning, ability to acquire new skills because of... what? Belief that the payoff won't be sufficient? My own laziness? Prejudice?

An experience from a few years back came to my mind Thursday evening. I planned to do a geocaching activity with my AP Lit class, so early that morning I enlisted a couple of my tenth graders to help me plant caches on our school grounds. These boys had very rarely expressed much interest at all in anything class-related, and the behavior in their class in general was such that I didn't want to venture outside of our room to try any different activities. When I handed them a couple of GPSs, however, they were immediately engaged, wanting to know how they worked and what they could do with them, asking questions, helping me... all the things we want from our kids.

Why did I forget about that morning? How did I so quickly fall back into practices that may guarantee lack of engagement and exposure to valuable tools for my lower level students?

Thanks, Mr. Gaiman, for helping me remember.

1 comment:

  1. Neil Gaiman is a wonderful author and an all around nice guy. He gives amazing readings and talks. As an author, I give talks to kids and wish I could do half as well as Mr. Gaiman does. Ah well, he, like many other writers, are there to inspire and enlighten. My son (7th grader) and I both read his books. Lucky you to have been able to attend one of Mr. Gaiman's presentations.