Quickwrite: Why Teachers Don’t Read

In an effort to post more frequently I am inaugurating what I will call “quickwrites”, after the popular classroom writing activity.


La Lettura, by Achille Boschi (1852-1930)

A discussion in the car this morning brought up the question of what would make for a better professional class of teachers. My argument, based on my fifteen years of teaching experience, is that far too many teachers lack the much-touted “lifelong love of learning”. I noted that while many teachers espouse this maxim to their young proteges, they fail to practice it in their own lives, especially when it comes to reading. Time and again I’ve had colleagues sheepishly admit that they don’t read. The most common reason I am told is, “I know I should read more, but I just don’t have time.” I find this curious because I don’t have time either, and yet I read voraciously, an average of one novel every one and a half months. Now, before you scoff at my glib self-praise, let me clarify: reading isn’t any easier for me.

I understand why people don’t have time. It’s because there are so many other things one believes one could or should be doing. Not that this wasn’t always the case, and not that electronic media don’t bewitch and entice us away from books, but reading simply isn’t all that valued. Case in point, reading at home for me is quite difficult. As soon as I sit down the dishes call, or the laundry, or paperwork of one form or another. The next thing I know I’m streaming Netflix because I just need to relax for a bit. Even naps trump reading.  There is this inner voice, a channeling of the collective unconscious that is perpetually whispering in my ear: You should be using this time in the way everyone else would use this kind of time…. Put down the book! The only difference between myself and the average non-reader is that I’ve chosen to fight this voice. And isn’t that what education is about, showing children and youth how to manifest their own voice in opposition to voices (internal or external) that seek to control them?

A natural question at this point is, how do I do it. I could describe my very simple methods, but I won’t. My point is, I have made a choice to read regularly. Aside from enjoying it immensely, I avoid hypocrisy when I say to my students, “You need to be reading everyday!”

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Filed under education general, Lost Apple, soka education, teachers

5 responses to “Quickwrite: Why Teachers Don’t Read

  1. “..far too many teachers lack the much-touted “lifelong love of learning”.

    Yes, I believe that teaching, for many, is a job rather than a passion. I think that only people who have this thirst for learning and questioning (like Socrates), can become great teachers, as they will understand what the true learning journey is like and will help guide their students in that process instead of squash their curiosity and interest with meaningless, rote tasks.

  2. Vicki REadenour

    Conny, I believe that you are wrong. I don’t read for fun, because I read to grade papers, to follow the latest research, to find new techniques, and to see what my kids are doing. Teaching is too hard to be a job. It requires a commitment that is not understood by others.

  3. Pamela Rivers

    It seems like a blanket statement to say that “teachers don’t read.” I don’t know which teachers this is true of, but it is not true of me or most of my colleagues. Just curious if this is purely anecdotal? It seems kind of a slap in the face to other teachers to say that they lack a lifelong love of learning.

    • Thank you so much for commenting! You’re right. It does sound very much like a blanket statement. If I were to revise the post I might modify the wording to some degree out of greater sensitivity. That being said, I do know many teachers who read regularly and are very much lifelong lovers of learning. I have also known a disturbing number who are not, and it is to them that this post is really directed. I feel that lack of seeking and updating one’s knowledge is real problem among public school educators. Still, your criticism of my post is valid, and I accept it. Although, had I titled the post Why Some Teachers Don’t Read, I doubt it would have gotten the response that it has.

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