I’m staring out at our sugar maple amazed at the spectacular color that this hot, very dry summer produced this fall. I can’t imagine life without color. Later, I will start to rake all my red leaves into a pile on my day off. Today, I decided that I would do just what I wanted to do, after a week of laryngitis and preparing for five days of a writing in service for our district teachers. Catching up with my writing family, has become a new priority for me. I can’t imagine my life without this every week. I also make time to check in on blogs that I love, at least once a week. I learn so much from Two Writing Teachers (Ruth and Stacey) and from A Year of Reading (Franki and Mary Lee).
This past week I read from Franki’s blog post about Lois Lowry’s new book Son, that recently made it to the shelves across the country. Franki, at Mary Lee’s suggestion, was rereading The Giver, a book that I taught eight years in a row when I was teaching seventh grade. My connection to this blog post ran deep; I was paying close attention to her words.
I suddenly, missed teaching that age range with all of my heart. It has been fourteen years since I left that teaching team that meant the world to me. I thought about all the students who experienced that book with me during those years. They would be in their mid twenties to thirty years old. It seems like a lifetime ago. So, I decided this morning that I also would also reread The Giver, before reading Son. I used to reread books every year because of how we had to teach literature back them…whole group no- student choice. I secretly would evaluate the author’s writing, based in part if the book would move me again, and again, and again and again! The Giver never failed me, and today….again, there was new insight…that I hadn’t remembered back when I was teaching it. I think it is because I am fourteen years older, in so many ways trying to cast a new vision for myself after 35 years of teaching.
The text that jumped from the page said:
“What did you perceive?’ The Giver asked.
“Warmth ,” Jonas replied,”and happiness. And–Let me think .
Family. and something else–I can’t quite get the word for it.”
“It will come to you.”
“Who were the old people and why were they there? It had puzzled Jonas, seeing them in the room . The ‘Old’ of the community did not ever leave their special place , The House of the Old where they were so well cared for and respected.
“They were called Grandparents.”
This is where I broke down…missing of my own grandmother who had been my world as a child. Missing my own grand baby and daughter, ten hours away. I am now a childless adult, as they called it in Jonas’s world. If I was living in the book, I would have never seen my own children as adults. My parents in their 80’s would be in The House of the Old in the place Jonas lived, waiting to be ‘released’.
I will never have the opportunity to teach this book again, because I will be retiring next year but, I don’t think it should stop me from sharing the whole idea of reading this book again, even if you have read and taught it ten times. The discussion of the themes of ‘individuality’, ‘pain’, and how very, very, important ‘love’ should be in this broken world are still topics that should be explored in middle school classrooms across our country. The word Jonas was struggling for in this passage was love and how we all need to feel like we belong.
Now, as I write these last few sentences I’m anticipating opening an amazing author’s new book, Son. The book is crisp, new and clean as I open it. It will become loved and worn as I share it with those that I love.
I’m wondering if any of my former students will be joining me? I’m wondering if any of you will…so we can talk about it along the way.