Reading novels with students can be challenging, yet fun. This year I decided to teach Sunrise Over Fallujah by Walter Dean Myers. Myers wrote Fallen Angels to share with young readers his experiences in the Vietnam War. He decided to use the experiences of his two children who served in Iraq as a way to get young people to think about war. It is not a political book; it is a book for anyone to see what serving in Iraq looks like the eyes of one soldier in a Civil Affairs unit, whose job is to win over the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.
The challenge of this novel has been for me to remember that the students do not have background knowledge. I am a closet-military-history geek; I watch the History Channel and subscribe to Military History magazine. The kids addicted to Call of Duty Modern Warfare know the weapons and vehicles, but they are only half of my classes. I have to explain what Humvees, IEDs, and mortars are. I have to review ranks in the Army.
Another challenge has been watching some students not read. It can be frustrating to try to prepare lessons designed to do what Myers desired: to get kids to think. These non-readers are not the norm; in fact, they are only a few. Nonetheless, it saddens me to see someone not trying.
My friends in the business world would fire the unproductive employee. Although there have been the occasional days when I would like to do that, I can’t. I get to teach every student in my classroom. I have to find ways to inspire, motivate, and cajole the student into trying. In the end, the student is responsible and is working on commission. He or she has the opportunity to earn 100 dollars (%) or zero dollars (%).