Thursday, November 01, 2007

The good old days

I've been consumed by class prep, but have spent a morning and two nights reading Jonathan Kozol's Letters to a Young Teacher. It made me really, really sad about what has been happening to public education in this country. Just like last night's sadness: no children came by at all to trick-or-treat!! When I grew up in this same tiny village, we ransacked these buildings, and there were tons of small groups of kids in rotation. People who weren't home would leave baskets of candy out, and some people bought those tiny goody bags and prepared individual bags full of candy for each child. I have no idea what has happened since then.

But anyhow, back to work. In honor of Jami's birthday today, I want to share a funny quote from the Kozol book:
The children had been told I was a writer and, like many children who quite often make this flattering mistake, they thought this was incredibly exciting and had carefully prepared a bunch of questions that they fired at me energetically, like just so many eight-year-old reporters. The questions they asked were really interesting to me and were, in fact, a whole lot more original than the questions grown-up interviewers generally pose.

"Is it lonesome to write?"

"How do you write so many words?"

"How do you feel if people criticize your books?"

"Does it make you sad when people know your books but can't pronounce your name?"

"Do you feel sad because you're old?"

One of the children also asked, "Do you write little books or chapter books?"

I had forgotten that distinction between books that are, essentially, extended stories and books long enough to be divided into chapters. Although I'd never thought of it this way before, I told the children, "I write chapter books," which led one of them to ask me why I didn't also write what she called "easy books" for younger children.

I'd answered that I'd never done that yet because I think it takes a special gift that I don't have but that I would like to try to write a book like that someday.

"Do it!" the child said, dispensing briskly with my effort to be self-effacing.

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