It was mid-April, and Amy Crick’s students were about to start reading S.E. Hinton’s, “The Outsiders.”
It’s Crick’s favorite unit to teach, says the seventh grade English/language arts teacher at Norwalk Middle School. This is the last novel they read for the school year, and it’s one that can usually hold their interest.
That’s because teens can relate to the characters, themes and relationships between parents, kids and teachers portrayed in the book, Crick says.
Finding things that resonate with students, like “The Outsiders,” is one way she gets them engaged in English class. But that can be a tough job, particularly at the beginning of the year, when she hears the common lament of “I don’t like English.”
Crick’s response: “I didn’t invent it, but I’m here to help you.”
She tries to create opportunities to make her class fun and interesting. That means tapping into things that are relevant to her students or that they enjoy. She’ll use tools such as YouTube or popular songs that convey a similar idea they’re covering in class.
While English class may be a tough sell for some of her students, Crick is ecstatic about the recent shift she’s seen in young people’s attitude toward reading.
Most class periods begin with about 10 to 15 minutes of free reading time, which students seem to enjoy, she says.
“The thing I’m most excited about in the last few years is I’ve really seen an increase in a desire and willingness to read, and disappointment when I say we don’t have time to read,” Crick says.
She can’t explain exactly what’s behind the trend — possibly the curriculum has encouraged more reading or parents have something to do with it, she hypothesizes. Regardless, it’s a good thing.
Crick has been teaching for 12 years, previously working with elementary-aged kids. Middle school has been the right fit for her.
“I am exactly in the place I want to be,” she says. “I really enjoy seventh grade. Seventh graders understand my dry sense of humor.”
She can also reason with students at this age, to an extent, she adds.
Crick laughs every day at something a student says or does.
“They are very entertaining,” she says.