Must Love Cats (and Literature)

Being out of the teaching scene has really kept me out of the loop. Each time I sign into blogger and read my fellow bloggies posts, I can't help but feel almost left out. Not your fault by any means...but as an unemployed educator who is trying to find her niche in the world, it's near depressing. I find myself instead, finding activities to help me improve as a person, and find out who I really am.

This summer, after the hustle and bustle of the wedding and the serene relaxation of the honeymoon, I decided to take the rest of my 2 months off to really focus on me. (As if my wedding and my honeymoon weren't already about me...). Even on my honeymoon I started this journey. I began writing again.

Writing as always been a passion of mine, since I was old enough to spell. I loved writing memoirs and essays when I was a child (though I didn't know what they were called then...all writings are called "stories" when you are 7), and I always had a passion for the truth. I even used to imagine living my life as an author. I wrote nearly everyday - preferring it to listening to or reading stories. I continued writing into my young adulthood and into college. I found a passion for poetry, both reading and writing. When I became a teacher, my passion for writing extended beyond myself and into the lives of my students. Reading, writing, and analyzing literature became "my thing". My students would soon poke fun at my love for all things lit: my infinite number of literary quotes I would spout off, my humongous library of children's literature, my children's adaptations of the classics. Even though I taught special education, my literary jokes and vocabulary lessons were not lost on my students. That's what true passion does: it allows all students, regardless of their abilities to access it. My passion was accessible for everyone around me.

One of the proudest moment in my teaching career to date was when a student of mine, a self-proclaimed hater of all things written, began reading the Bad Kitty series on his own after hearing a Bad Kitty read aloud in our class. He became so enthralled with the story, the characters, and Nick Bruel's captivating and kid-friendly writing style. I chose to read Bad Kitty for President as a read aloud during elections time, because, though it was not (obviously) entirely accurate without electoral system in the United States, it was an engaging and humorous way to introduce politics to young children. Further, Bruel provides rich, meaty vocabulary in his works, which provides me as an educator with wonderful mini-lessons and opportunities for literature practice. Additionally, his style of writing, and the format of his works is, up until just a few years ago, unparalleled to any other authors today (however, a movement for this engaging style is taking off, and I promise you will see more and more of this enchanting children's literature in the future). Around the same time, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series was also published. This series, while similar book format to Nick Bruel's series (very engaging, delightfully humorous illustrations, interactive, kind-friendly, intriguing point-of-view, the list goes on...), was not the appropriate age for my kiddos. This series is better suited for middle school-aged students. The situations in the series were too advanced and unfamiliar to my students (thankfully).

Due to my wonderful collection of books (most of them donated when I became head teacher years ago), I continued my search for the perfect read aloud. That was when I found my bin of Bad Kitty books. While I myself had never read the series, I was familiar with the format and the high-interest level of the series. I decided to give it a try. After reading a few of the books myself, I decided that I had to introduce the series to my students. I just knew that they would love them! As a cat-lover myself, I had accidentally trained my kiddos to adore the feline as well. As a sort of calling card, I add pictures of cats to everything. I created a cat-centric collage to the back of my classroom door, printed pictures of my own cats and taped them to the back of the computers in the class, and drew pictures of cats on my students' point sheets at the end of the day. Due to my own passion, I inadvertently shaped my students into cat-lover's themselves! (see what I mean about passion...). So, I just knew Bad Kitty would be the perfect read aloud for an introduction to chapter books.

After reading Bad Kitty for President, my students were hooked, but little did I know my little guy "N" would be so intrigued by the book. It was a life-changer, literally! He began checking out the series, one book at a time from our classroom library. I would find him, during free time (!), reading each book to himself, giggling and muttering about how ridiculous Kitty was. It didn't matter to me that he wasn't pronouncing each name correctly, nor that he was omitting some unimportant transition words. He was reading. And he was enjoying it. He had found the magical door to the world of literature, just a little bit ajar, and he paraded right on through.

To this day, by little buddy "N" continues to read for pleasure. Yes, mostly these are those graphic-esque-type novels, or books about cats, but I don't care. As he continues on his self-paved literary journey, he will find his love of literature, as I did.

I too, am continuing on my self-paved journey. This summer is about finding what I am missing in my life. I know I will be an educator for my entire life. I just need to find an environment as passionate and supportive as I feel.

As I continue on my own journey, I ask you - where are you headed? 


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