They say that ninety percent of TV is junk. But, ninety percent of everything is junk.
My parents raised my siblings and me on a small farm that was 30 minutes from a decent grocery store and 60 minutes from a movie theater. It was a great way to grow up—the four of us ran pretty wild, especially in the summer. I remember faces streaked with sweat and sun, and lots of dirty bare feet.
There was just one problem.
My parents didn’t “believe” in TV. Whatever that means.
We pouted and moaned about this, of course; all our friends were watching loads of TV that sounded like great fun. The Brady Bunch, Full House, Sesame Street, M*A*S*H, Eight Is Enough—we missed them all. But my parents were deaf to our complaints. “Go outside,” they’d say, shaking their heads. “Find something to do that won’t rot your brains.”
We didn’t see movies, either. “Too far to drive and costs too much,” my father would say. We caught a few of the major ones as a special treat, and saw a few others thanks to the mercy of our friends’ parents, but for the most part, movies eluded us, too.
Today I like to give my parents a hard time about the aftereffects of my movie and TV deprivation. I am over 40 years old, and when someone quotes movie lines as part of a conversation—as my husband and friends seem to do all the time—I exhibit a blank face that must be truly comical.
“Huh?” I’ll say. “What does that mean?”
“It’s from SNL,” my friend will say.
I’ll shrug. “Didn’t see it.”
“You didn’t see Saturday Night Live?” My friend asks, bewildered. “Everyone saw that episode.”
Instead of TV, we read a lot. We counted on the bookmobile and regular trips to the public library to fill our time. We were allowed to read almost anything we wanted, although occasionally our parents would hand us something they thought we needed to read. That happened just after I turned 12 and my father handed me a copy of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
“Read this,” he said. “When you’re done, we’ll talk about it.”
On that first read, I probably understood only a fraction of the novel, but I was fully captured by it. The book was my first real exposure to some of the awful injustices that happen in this world—things so unfair, they couldn’t begin to make sense in my young, sheltered, midwestern child’s mind.
My father and I spent a lot of time talking about the book—he answered many tough questions for me, sharing his perspective from having grown up in rural Virginia during the civil rights upheaval of the 1960s.
No screens. Just a girl and her dad, peeling back complicated layers of things that happened in the life of another little girl and her dad living in what amounted to a completely different world.
Who needs television and movies when you’ve got books like To Kill a Mockingbird to teach you about the world? Maybe someday I’ll see the movie.
Teachers face all sorts of interesting challenges when it comes to moving between screens and books, which is the focus of this week’s newsletter. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
Jennifer Schwanke is a principal in Dublin Ohio. Her online course, The Principal’s Role in Evaluating and Supporting Literacy Instruction, begins next week.
Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links, follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ChoiceLiteracy or Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/choiceliteracy/]
Katherine Sokolowski shares advice for Integrating Short Videos into Minilessons:
Jennifer Allen explains how and why she launches professional development sessions with short video clips:
Teacher Tube offers classroom-safe video collections on a wide range of topics, all submitted and approved by educators:
Many of the videos at How Stuff Works have a science bent, with a healthy dollop of humor:
For Members Only
Gretchen Schroeder finds her high school students are always eager to see the movies related to the novels they are reading in class. Yet it rarely makes sense to show the entire film. She explains how to choose clips judiciously in Are We Gonna Watch the Movie?:
Christy Rush-Levine makes links between standards, video clips, and close reading in Embracing Standards in Creative Ways:
In this week’s video, Ruth Ayres draws out the story-writing possibilities with first-grader Kendall by conferring over her illustrations:
Jennifer Schwanke explains why pop quizzes can be damaging to students using a pop culture reference in Core Memories and Gotcha Moments:
In an encore video, Heather Rader confers with a second grader over his game writing while Linda Karamatic listens in:
That’s all for this week!