Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sylvia Ashton-Warner wrote a non-fiction and fiction book about the same material. "Teacher" (non-fiction) and "Spinster" (fiction), both superb books, are about her teaching kids to read who are poor and live in a forest.

She is supposed to teach them to read out of book about and for children who have much more money and many more manufactured objects. She has tried that, and that is no longer what she is doing.

She is demanding that they tell her key words, that each of them tell her key words for them, and she puts the words, one by one, on index cards, which them belong to the kid.

If it is obvious to her they just throw some word out there to get her to leave them alone, she doesn't leave them alone. She pushes til she gets words they care about. "Eels." "Canoe."+

Some carry the index cards with their key words around like comfort toys--increasingly worn out and always around.

She wants them to read from their hearts and their lives.

Life is amazing. It's amazing after reading "Teacher" and "Spinster" to read Ashton-Warner's book "Myself," which is a diary she toward the beginning of her teaching
career. Amazing to read this in the diary: "To me, never will teaching be other than a necessary source of income, a professions drifted into on account of the hours and the fact that others did it Never!"

Wow. Even as she is writing that, she is obviously caring a lot about teaching. And fighting the caring, looks like. I've just started reading "Myself." It'll be interesting to see if she is transformed and if she noticing she is transformed in the time covered by this diary into the person for whom, when she was in the classroom, nothing on Earth was as important as helping the kid find the key word, the link between learning and being alive.