Required Reading

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. While we’re a little behind on appreciating the teachers we have for my son this year, I noticed the picture below on a recent trip through his school.

This was my 7th grade CLUE English teacher. This was my first year where CLUE was an actual class with a grade. This was also my first year with a required summer reading list. Before I started school that year, I had never heard of required summer reading. Summers were for reading whatever you wanted! Most egregiously, this was my first year to make a C on my report card. I was devastated. How do you make a C in your favorite class?

I learned more from that C than I did any of the As or Bs that preceded it. I learned that school was more about understanding and appreciating our world and the way we choose to fit within it than memorizing facts, definitions, or spelling words. I learned that the importance of required reading is as much learning that sometimes things you should read are not always the things that you want to (this serves you well later on in college when you need that discipline to get through research papers and even later on in life when researching for articles on subjects for work that you personally find uninteresting.) I learned that required reading is not necessarily synonymous with wretched reading. I also learned that clear articulation is as critical a life skill as learning to read. The ability to articulate your meaning leaves little room for doubt in any kind of communication thus building confidence in your abilities in general.

Mrs. Erskine guided me through Tom Sawyer, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Red Badge of Courage, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and a study of the Holocaust (I think I read the biography of Corrie Ten Boom that year). That is an incredible load to bear, and she did it so well that I can still picture her teaching us and talking through the events of the days pertinent to those stories. I can still see her reviewing vocabulary with us – giving us visual cues on the meaning of the words. Eschew and Voracious have always held an esteemed place in my lexicon thanks to her.

I heard that she’s retiring this year which makes me a little sad. My son will be in 7th grade CLUE next year, and I can’t help but think her gifts and talents as a teacher would do him a world of good.

I was fortunate to go to schools where we had an abundance of great teachers. Mrs. Erskine wasn’t the only, but by happenstance her picture crossed my path during Teacher Appreciation Week, so this post is dedicated to her and her amazing career!

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