My Students Don’t Read

My students don’t read.

The reading schedule is printed on their syllabus by chapter, page number, and due date.  They know they are required to read the first chapter of their book by Tuesday.  I bold the relevant words.  In case they forget to read the syllabus, I remind them in class: “Remember, your reading assignment should be finished by Tuesday.”  I write it on the board.

My students don’t read.

I explain to them why the reading is relevant to their greater education and to the goals of the course.  We talk about how to do critical reading and why it matters, why being able to pull out main points and significant ideas, to debate and discuss them, is part of the work of life, not just of school.

My students don’t read.

When I give the quizzes, they fail.  Once, rather than fake his way through the quiz, a student of mine drew a picture on his paper of a little stick figure falling down a cliff with the words “SORRRRYYYYYY” coming out of his mouth as he went.  They leave blank spaces beneath the questions.  Sometimes instead of answers they write small, confessional apologies: “I just didn’t have time but I’ll do better next time” or once, eloquently, “gonna get a 0 sorry”

My students don’t read.

Sometimes they make excuses: grandmothers are dying, pets are sick, things are always on fire or melting or exploding.  Sometimes they slink out of the room without making eye contact.  Sometimes they give me an affable grin and the most honest answer I could ask for: “Nope, didn’t read, sorry.”

My students don’t read.  And I want to ask them why.  What is it that makes this simple task so hard? I make sure the assignments are manageable for them and I give them plenty of time.  My classroom is generally a pleasant and cheerful one; my students work hard, except in this regard, and seem to respect me.  I exhort them to manage their time, give them reminders in advance, and periodically try to terrify them by reminding them I have grading authority over them and that they or their parents are blowing thousands of dollars for the opportunity to take this course.

And they still don’t read.

But I can’t give up on them.  And I can’t because there are so many things I don’t do, even when I know I should and have clear instructions and plenty of time and every reason in the world to be motivated.  I can’t because, like Paul, we all “do not understand what [we] do.  For what [we] want to do we do not do, but what [we] hate [we] do” (Rom. 7:15).  God never stops trying with me; His patience encourages me to never stop trying with them.  And my hope is that my patience and my insistence will create an appetite in them: the desire to learn, and know more, and grow.

My students don’t read.

And so I don’t stop teaching.

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3 responses to “My Students Don’t Read

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