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Slice of Life: Reading Slump

Summer vacation is the time when most English teachers can finally put up their feet, lounge by the pool, and read for pleasure. The time when you can finally make a dent in that never-ending stack of bedside books. When you get to travel the world through books from the comfort of your backyard deck.

And with the boys at summer school every morning from 8-12, I’ve got what I almost never have during the school year―a few hours of happy, sacred quiet.

And yet.

I’m in a slump. A reading slump, that is. We’re halfway through the summer, and I’ve finished three books. While three books is certainly better than no books at all, if I were reading at my usual pace, I should have probably finished twice, even three times that number.

It’s not for lack of books, that’s for sure.  As I wrote last week, I’ve been on a recent tear at local used book sales as I’ve been stocking my classroom library and a few of my colleagues’. I’ve picked up books I think my students will love, but also many that I’ve been eager to read as well. And then there’s the Game of Thrones series. I finished the first book in June in a little under a week, but I’ve languished in the second book for the last month, barely halfway through.

I’m also in and out of several professional books. Reading or rereading the work of Nancie Atwell, Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, and Kylene Beers has been keeping me engaged, and my head―and my notebook―are filled with ideas to try out for next year. It’s exciting and energizing in the best kinds of ways.

But it’s also not the type of reading I think I’m yearning for.

gameofthronesmemeI want to get lost―lost in a story, in a character’s life, in another world. When I texted my colleague that I was “working through Game of Thrones,” she replied that it made it sound like reading the book was work, and work was the last thing I should be doing in the summer. I guess my choice of words might have been telling. I have been working through the book, but not because I haven’t enjoyed it. In fact, every time I pick up Clash of Kings, I find myself transported to Westeros, transported in a similar way I was lost in Hogwarts many summers ago when I devoured the entire Harry Potter series.

But I haven’t been able to fully escape in a book the way I want to. As reluctant as I am to admit this―I really wanted to love Game of Thrones―I think part of the problem is that George R. R. Martin’s series switches between so many points-of-view (at least a half dozen) that by the time I get invested in one character’s arc, I’m thrust into another’s. As compelling as each character is, the overall plot moves in a methodically slow way, which I suppose is the point.

I can’t blame the book. It’s also how I’m reading it―in snippets, here and there, and in between three or four other books. On my Goodreads shelf right now, for example, I’ve listed five books I’m currently reading. Some I’ve just started, others I’m about halfway through. But because I have my head in so many different directions, I’m finding it hard to dive into one, to find that one immersive reading experience.

Of course, seeing Twitter posts with so many of my colleagues finishing #bookaday challenges doesn’t help.

My other problem is one of abundance. I have so many books to read that I’m starting to feel discouraged. I want to knock off some titles on my YA list, but don’t want to start anything until I’ve finished what I’m reading now. At the same time, as I read this book, I’m acutely aware of all the other ones I’m not reading. Swarthmore professor Barry Schwartz referred to this feeling of dissatisfaction as both a paradox and a tyranny―the more choices we have, the less satisfied we are with the choices we make. It comes down to opportunity cost. If I only have two books to read, I’m only “losing out” on the opportunity to read one book when I choose to read the other. If I have, as I do, a massive stack of books, well… that’s a much higher opportunity cost.

And because I can’t turn my teacher brain off, every time I enter Westeros, I worry I’m not reading my professional texts. What new ideas, lessons, bits of wisdom am I missing out on while I follow Jon Snow out on the Wall?

Maybe that’s the real problem: teacher brain. I haven’t been able to fully unwind yet. I spent the first few days of vacation at the ISTE conference, overwhelmed with too many ideas for how to use technology in the classroom. Then each week since then, I’ve been doing presentations at our local writing project site. And then there’s been my book rummaging, Twitter PD, and this week, the Teachers Leading Teachers online conference. In her latest post on the PA Writing Project’s website, Nerdy Book Club blogger and high school teacher Cindy Minnich mentioned the idea of FOMO―fear of missing out. It’s what I feel every time I pick up a book.

So instead of being deep in the waters of Westeros and other countless worlds, I’m stuck wading along the shores.


slice of lifeThis post is part of the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers, a weekly invitation to share a snapshot of ordinary life through writing.

7 Comments

  1. Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski

    Great post! It sounds like you hit the nail on the head when you described that your teacher brain hasn’t shut off or at least rested a little. I am also in the middle of several professional books and have a huge TBR of third grade-ish books to read. On a family trip this week, I stole some minutes to read my non teaching related book club book, The Luckiest Girl Alive. I had that lost in a story feeling and just could not put it down. It felt good to read for the pure pleasure of enjoying a book and nothing else. Hope you get a chance to just soak up a story for the pure fun of it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know just what you mean and I’m feeling the same way–in fact, as much as I love to read I tend to never reach #bookaday status. Here’s to unwinding enough soon to get lost in a story again. One book I have read so far this summer that I did get lost in was The Miniaturist, a literary mystery/historical fiction set in 17th century Amsterdam. It was quite a page turner! Good luck and thanks for slicing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. mlvteach

    I am right there with you, too. I always have an uneasy feeling in the summers…no really rigid routine and a wish list of things to read and do at least a yard long.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We put so much pressure on ourselves to accomplish things in the summer. When it becomes a “must do” it is less fun. I think you should let it all go for a few days and then, you will want to come back. It’s like that experiment they did with kids in a room with a table of sweets and a table of healthy foods. The kids were told they could eat whatever they wanted and naturally, they all went for the sweets first, but, eventually, their bodies wanted something better and they gravitated towards the healthy table.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amy

    I completely understand. I get in a reading slump from time-to-time too. I have no trouble creating a list of books I want to read and then end up juggling several books at once. And, if the book doesn’t pull me in it takes me forever to finish it! Sometimes I don’t finish it then. I think this is just a simple reminder for what all readers do.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can relate to you wholeheartedly, Tricia!

    I spent the first month month out of teaching summer school, and I enjoyed it immensely. July is now catch up month – I started penning content for a book, designing my website, sending out proposals for upcoming conferences, following through on lunch commitments with friends, and preparing a trip to Arkansas to visit family and more friends.

    Like yourself, I am feel overwhelm at the mere fact of trying to get everything done before returning to work within the next couple of weeks.

    For certain, you have been shining your light as an educator. You have been a part of numerous educational programs, workshops, and conferences. While you feel overwhelm, your great work will reap GREAT rewards for your students!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I can totally relate to your feelings in this post. Too many book choices, reading in snippets, and wanting to get lost in a book. I just finished Circus Mirandus which reminded me of the adult book Night Circus that I read several years ago. Hopefully, your teacher brain will unwind soon so you can relish some reading time.

    Liked by 1 person

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