As a teacher, there is often a temptation to spend all your time thinking up ways to help other people exercise their brains, while neglecting your own. I noticed last year, when I was teaching students from a certain country, that I was always banging on about the importance of reading, while at the same time doing very little myself. If Einstein was right when he said example is the only way to teach, then it is no wonder that so few paid attention to my bumptious ramblings.
This year, I think I have fared a little better. I managed to get through, and enjoy, a few more books than last year:
Hellhound on His Trail is about the assassination of Martin Luther King and the hunt for James Earl Ray. It's essentially written like a thriller but because it's historical, you feel a bit smarter than if you read a Michael Connolly book.
The Beatles Tune In is about the minutiae of the Beatles' lives up until 1962. The amount of detail is overwhelming at times. You get the impression that if Paul McCartney ever wanted to find out what happened to that pair of argyle socks he lost in 1959, all he'd have to do is check out the index, look under socks; then socks owned by Paul McCartney; then go to the subheading socks lost and once he'd found the year, hey presto. Enjoyable, if daunting; the 400 pages or so that span Stuart Sutcliffe's life are worth the price alone.
The Black Dahlia is a fictionalised account of a famous murder that took place in Los Angeles in the 1940s. The book has an incredible amount of energy and is almost pugilistic.
Various books by Denis Lehane. Gone, Baby, Gone and Mystic River are staggeringly good; Moonlight Mile a little less so.
I mention all of this for two reasons. The first is that I am on Christmas holidays now and so my thoughts on teaching are more ponderous than practical.
Secondly, I think making the effort to read a lot more has benefitted my students. I have absolutely no evidence for this but I'd put a very small amount of money on it being true. It may be because I am more alert and zen if I spend my lunch break reading rather than playing Blastbilliards. Or perhaps it is because my time away from the class feels longer, richer, from stepping into a book for twenty minutes and forgetting about correcting. At the very least, I can delude myself into thinking that the sight of me reading a book somewhere on campus might be the thing to push a student over the edge and into a library.
I would be very curious to hear how other teachers keep their brains ticking over.
Happy Christmas and all the best for 2015.