Novel Ideas from the IB Workshop

It is two days until Berlin. I am totally messed up for sleep because my routine is up until 2am, go to an IB workshop from 8-3pm and then take a nap for an hour. Should be perfect on the road, but I feel strange at the moment. The IB workshop was actually one of the better professional development opportunities I have participated in, and I came away with two major revelations: I need to read more novels immediately and I should reflect on my positive negativist approach to teaching.

I became an English teacher because I like to read literature (some of my best friends are books), I have summers free for travel, and I am engaged with bright minds every day. Since becoming a teacher, I seldom have the ability to read beyond the three books I squeeze in a year; reading student work dulls my literary engagement with other texts. My brain struggles to find the desire to envelop itself in a text, but I have been fortunate enough to find the right novels to sustain me. In the second year of my M.A. degree at McGill I managed to read about 100 major works that related to my thesis and other topics, and that deep reading has lasted me until today. Yesterday, I felt a strong desire to pick up books and start reading again. Maybe it was because I felt a sense of personal inferiority or maybe it was the first time in years that I was surrounded by valid literary criticism. I was never a fast reader. I was never the student who had mastered the fine details of inane works. I was never disciplined enough to formulate a perfect argument. I am blunt, direct and authoritative. Arguing with me can be like fighting with Romeo: “Either thou, or I, or both must go”. I am willing to sacrifice being right, because even if I am wrong I will still get up and learn more.

With a trip to the boxstore bookstore, I grabbed four short novels for my travels: Yukio Mishimi’s The Temple of the Golden Pavillion, Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Mikhail Lermontov’s Hero of Our Time and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. In the past few years I have come to love Cormac McCarthy and Haruki Murakami; these two authors have filled my reading roster between runs with classic texts by canonical authors such as Proust, Tolstoy and Hugo. What I hope is that these four new novels will be a catalyst for a renaissance of my love for reading. Since most of my other books are purchased from the Folio Society, I decided to go with Everyman editions of these works because they tend to stand up to the test of time better than other editions which are not printed on acid free paper.

I learn by making mistakes and turning the negatives into positives. I have been successful in my life, I think, because I am willing to go to the dark places and reflect on what I need to rebuild. What the IB workshop has put into that experience is the idea of celebrating the positive versus focusing on the flaws; I teach like I learn, and I learn from what fails, not what succeeds. What I will consider over the next few months is whether I can adapt my teaching style to not reflect my own learning style, but rather that of a new age of learners and teaching pedagogy. Maybe, maybe not. My style of teaching might be better given the way it is delivered and by whom: Paper ~ Rock~ Scissors.

My unforeseen travel partner has confirmed his flights and trains: Manning will be traveling with me from Berlin through to Rome. We have never even imagined traveling together, so this should be an unexpected adventure that might end the universe as we know it. Scott is a talented painter and educator, so we will have to see what effect this journey has on both of our mindsets and art. There will either be a synergy produced that will alter both of our artistic experiences or…one of us might die.


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