New Readings of Old Books

The past two years I’ve been teaching ELA to a group of students with IEPs.  I’ve been teaching for almost ten years so many of the books I teach in this class, I’ve taught before.  I noticed this year that motherhood has really changed my perspective on this literature and I wonder how much it’s affected my teaching (I hope for the better!)

For example, one of the books, actually a play, is The Miracle Worker by William Gibson.  If you haven’t read it, it’s the story of Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan and how Annie Sullivan taught Helen Keller language (hence the “miracle”).  I was in this play in high school and I always found it kind of melodramatic, especially the part of Helen’s mother, Kate.  If you watch the movie, you’ll see why.  Lots of crying and screaming.

But this year when I taught it, I caught myself feeling so sad for Kate.  I was trying to explain to the kids why Kate lost and gained a child at the same time and why she would be grieving for Helen when Helen was still alive.  A couple of them got it, most of them looked at me blankly because probably it really wasn’t really the main focus of the play and I was getting a little worked up about it.  Still, it was interesting to have the total opposite reaction to this character.

We also read The Giver by Lois Lowry.  This is a more science fiction-y novel and in it a baby is in danger of being killed.  Even though I had taught the book before and knew the ending, I was so worried for this baby and I kept wanting to rush out and get to my own baby.  I don’t know if it’s maternal instinct or guilt or what but it was one of the strongest, most primal, feelings of protectiveness I’ve felt in a long time.