A wise man once said that to me when we were in a meeting talking about our students. He pointed out that they couldn’t always identify their own needs and that as educators we needed to help them figure out what they needed (not just what they wanted.) That’s so true.

On Friday, in one of my classes, my students and I got talking about reading. Someone asked me a question – I confess to not remembering exactly what her question was – and it prompted me to remind them that the best way to learn how to write was to read, often and all the time. We, then, jumped online and bounced around to blogs – Stuff White People Like, Stuff Black People Like, (One student wanted to know what bi-racial people like, but no one has written that blog yet, much to her own disappointment since she is bi-racial), and then here to my blog. In our search for fun blogs, I was trying to show them that they could read anything and get better at their writing. Before the conversation was over, I had promised them five points on their final if they read a book – any book beyond a picture book – and summarized it for me. Then, they wanted to know – these folks who are always motivated by extra credit – if I would give them five points for each book they read; I had to say I would give them 1 point for every additional book they read. I’d like to think they’ll all read ten books a piece in the next eight weeks – since I won’t make if through that many books, I doubt they will – but maybe they will read one or two a piece, and then I will be thrilled.

You see, they do not know the joy or glory of reading because most of them don’t read. Much or any. One sweet woman said she couldn’t remember the last thing she read that wasn’t for school. That breaks my heart a little.

So I hope that they will all read. They are brilliant people – sometimes they – like all of us – just don’t know what we don’t know. Sometimes we need teachers – all of us need teachers – to tell us what we need to know. Hence, I will consider myself a student for my whole life.

In fact, in this same class on Friday, we watched videos for an essay the class is writing. A colleague had introduced me to Linkin Parks’s song “What I’ve Done,” and the class and I watched it on Friday. I learned a lot from watching my students’ faces as they watched this video full of images of the way we’ve worked to destroy our earth. Their faces were sad and broken, shocked to be reminded of how much we hurt ourselves all the time – In those moments, I learned that these students – the ones who sometimes seem to not care much about anything except getting out of class – really do care about the earth and one another. I needed to be reminded of that.

After we watched that video, we watched one by Nickelback and Black Star and talked about the ways videos with messages tended to be fairly effective. I watched little stars of activism light up in their eyes. Now I pray those tiny glimmers glow into flames of action. And I pray they will read their way to more knowledge, just as I often teach my way to mine.

Oh, and I hope they are reading this page because I told them I would write about them. My inspirations.