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Teaching Reading: A Semester of Inquiry

Teaching Reading: A Semester of Inquiry

Written by Antero Garcia
May 06, 2013

Teaching Reading and the Decisive Moment

“Since [writing] is your religion, do you know what you will be asked when you die? But let me tell you first what you won’t be asked. You won’t be asked if you were working on a wonderful, moving piece of writing when you died. You won’t be asked if it was long or short, sad or funny, published or unpublished. You won’t be asked if it was the one piece of writing you would have been working on if you had known your time would be up when it was finished. I’m sure you’ll get asked only two questions. Were most of your stars out? Were you busy writing your heart out?

Seymour Glass

This is a resource of a specific moment.

Over the past semester my undergraduate class at Colorado State University, “Teaching Reading” embarked on a mutual inquiry into the ways reading is defined, enacted, and challenged within classroom spaces. It was a journey that largely began theoretically before moving toward practice-based exercises. Ours was a question revolving around how the practice of reading is changing in the dizzying world of today’s classroom.

For me, our classroom space was a transformative and potentially revolutionary one. It was a space where we could look at what reading means in today’s shifting classrooms and think about what teaching with “most of your stars out” actually looks like. This resource captures the major constellations of topics we assayed over a semester.

Not all of my students felt comfortable with the notion that they could contribute meaningfully to nation-wide discussions on reading and writing in a digital age.

We’re still students, they’d say.

We’re not experts, they’d say.

Who’s going to listen to us? they’d say.

And this is when I continued to wonder about expertise and knowledge of reading at this moment (May, 2013) and in this place (Fort Collins, Colorado). Because my sneaking suspicion (and one I see echoed across many Digital Is pages) is that literacies are changing. They’re changing a lot. Renowned photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson has written and spoken at length about the “decisive moment”–the snap judgment a photographer makes in capturing a fleeting truth before it disappears into the ethers of unrecorded history. In an interview, Cartier-Bresson explained, “Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera. That is the moment the photographer is creative … Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”

I’m not a big fan of the professional development notion of “best practices.” They disregard the cultural, historical, and interpersonal contexts in which we teach. Instead of best practices, my students here offer interpretations, questions, and lingering concerns about the state of teaching reading in this moment and this place. We hope you will continue this dialogue with us.

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