when i grow up
First thing this morning I was talking with seven 8th graders about reading. We were waiting to begin our state testing, because of late buses. “Teachers just make us read books they want us to read. None of them are ever good,” one student said.
She was quickly supported by other students. In the middle of the room sat a boy with a Christopher Paolini book. “Hunter’s a reader,” I said.
“I remember the year you became a reader. Third grade, right?”
He nodded again.
“How?!?” the girl next to him blurted. I smiled at her shock that someone could actually become a reader.
“Mrs. Bean.” A single name was a complete answer for him.
“Everyone becomes a reader if they are in Mrs. Bean’s class,” I said.
“A teacher turned you into a reader?” The girl was still stunned.
“Yes,” Hunter said.
“What’d she do?” asked another student.
Hunter shrugged. Just when I thought he wasn’t going to answer he said, “She helped you find books you wanted to read and she didn’t let you waste time with a bad book. Everyone had book stacks on their desks and she talked to us about our reading. I mean, she taught me there’s good books out there and how to read so they made sense.”
“If there’s a book you want to read and you’re in Mrs. Bean’s class she gets it for you,” I added.
“You could keep it too, if you asked.” Hunter said.
“Huh. You mean she didn’t make you read stupid stuff?” She was flabbergasted.
“Nah,” Hunter said. He thumbed the pages of his thick book. “I mean she read books to us, but they were always good. Then after a book we’d do something fun, like dress up or something.”
“You know, that was five years ago,” I said. “Yet you still like reading now. How come?”
Hunter looked at me. “Once you know there’s good books out there, you just want more.”
You won’t meet a better teacher than Mrs. Bean. She loves books, but she loves her students more. In fact, she loves them so much that she works until they love books too. Then she teaches them to read so the books they love make sense. And it’s instruction that lasts. It’s not just reading for school, but reading for life. Her students grow up and they want to read more. This is just one of the many reasons I want to be like Mrs. Bean when I grow up.
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