Self-Care & Self-Improvement

Posted on July 2, 2018

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Update: July 2018

Hello, reader. I’ve been absent for months, I know, and I apologize for my long silence, but I had to take my own advice and focus on self-care. Even though it looks like “doing nothing” when observed, writing actually takes a lot out of a person, and sometimes the demands of life and making a living don’t allow that little extra for writing. The pace of life has slowed now, and I’ve had a chance to catch my breath, so here I am. Hello!

Last winter I wrote that I would write a series of posts about Independent Reading in Senior English, and I will–over the course of the summer. Since the heat wave hit, I’ve been organizing The Archive and The Library.  Over the past few days, I’ve moved all of my Land Ethic library to the second floor, to reside with most of the rest of my books in the guest room. The Library is organized by category, and each category has its own crate or two. It isn’t the Dewey system, but I can walk directly to any book I’m thinking of on two floors.

Likewise, The Archive is mostly organized. One morning of sorting will bring order to the documents needing filing upstairs and in the basement, and then I’ll be ready to begin analyzing research data on students’ mindfulness practices and independent reading practices. When I’ve reached that point, I’ll pick up where I left off on my reading series.

Other subjects I may explore on this blog over the summer may be: self-care in response to trauma, my road trip to Kansas, and a favorite subject of mine, professional development.

As I said, I’ve been focused on self-care for a couple of months, and reading is good medicine for me. As a child who spent a lot of time alone, I found friends in stories, and several decades later, I still count on characters and writers, most of whom I’ll never meet, to lift my spirits and help me feel less alone. Many students feel lonely, for a variety of reasons, and for many, reading is a way to ease that loneliness.

Justin Stygles, a fifth-grade teacher in Wiscasset, Maine, writes about the role summer reading can play in the lives of students who are are in need of self-care as well as more practice in reading. In “Summer Reading Intervention: Self-Care,” on the International Literacy Association blog, he writes,

When a reader adopts reading as a form of self-care, he or she accepts reading as a means to improve himself or herself. He or she is more likely to explore resources and avenues to overcome challenges, without fear or consequence. The middle-level reader who uses reading as self-care takes times out of his or her busy day to relieve stress. The reader also prioritizes the conditions in which he or she reads to maximize the experience.

Stygles may be writing about fifth graders, but his words ring true for me as I think how I want to spend my summer preparing for another year (my 25th) in the classroom. I’d bet that many people, whether high school freshmen or senior citizens, can find respite and relaxation in reading–self-care and self-improvement. I invite other readers to “prioritize the conditions in which he or she reads to maximize the experience”. One way I maximize my reading experience is to read outside, in the early morning, when the humans are sleeping, but the birds fill the air with song.

Books I read in June, many of them outside, are:

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I’ve read and loved many of Erdrich’es books; LaRose reminds me of Love Medicine.
Like Erdrich, Ozeki blurs the lines between past and future, reality and fantasy in a tale that spans generations–a great story. Beard’s historic fiction intersects Ozeki’s story of a Japanese Kamikaze pilot with the stories of several characters who are at work on the atomic bomb that will be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in a plant in Oak Ridge, TN–but most of the workers have no idea what they’re working on; they’re content to do what they can “for the war effort.” The ABC book is to add to my collection of alphabet & counting books to help students talk about genre and literary features. Freedom Summer and If A Bus Could Talk are picture books about the Civil Rights struggle of black Americans, purchased on my “social justice tour” through Kansas.

Books I am currently reading are:

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Whale Rider is one of my all-time favorite movies, so I want to read the original story. Becker is one of my favorite thinkers, and I have read at least 2 other books he wrote. The Mahabharata is Indian mythology, a book lent to me by a friend.

And books I’ll be reading soon are:

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A.S. King’s YA novel will be my second by her; the last one was about a character who, like me, lived near an airport. Unlike me, she had imaginary conversations with the passengers on the planes flying overhead. I am a huge fan of Grace Lee Boggs, so I am looking forward to reading another of her books. Rooted in the Earth is a history of African-American ecological thinking, and the Usborne book will join Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics as a resource to help my students and me understand the genre of comics.

I’ll tell you more about what I’m reading and what I’m learning about teaching and learning from my students–in future posts. Until then,

Thanks for reading. Thanks for subscribing. With Gratitude,

~ lisa