This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the publishing of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Haper Lee won a Pulitzer Prize for her expertly written view of a sleepy southern town with hidden prejudices. I bought a copy of the book this summer to read. I am sure I read it in high school or college, but I wanted to read it through different eyes. As I began to read the book, I immediately knew why it is a classic and a Pulitzer prize winner. I also realized why Harper Lee never published another book because every other book she wrote would be compared to To Kill a Mockingbird. Here is an excerpt from the book where Lee is describing a hot sultry summer in Maycomb, Georgia: "Men's collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o'clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum." Oh, If only . . . .
The title To Kill a Mockingbird comes from a quote that Atticus says, "Shoot at all the bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." Because a mockingbird doesn't have its own song it is considered an innocent and is symbolic for the downtrodden in the book. I haven't finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird which is quite a surprise I usually read a book a day. I think I am savoring it like a decadent dessert that I shouldn't be eating. I read it secretly when nobody is home.
When a book is ordered on amazon.com it recommends other books based on what has been bought. Since I ordered To Kill a "Mockingbird" a book came up on my recommended list entitled Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine and of course I ordered it because amazon.com recommended it for me. It is written from, a fifth grader, Caitlyn's point of view. Caitlyn has Asperger's which is an autstic spectrum disorder. Catilyn's older brother Devon is killed in a school shooting. Because Devon was wise beyond his years To Kill a Mockingbird was his favorite movie. The book being written from Caitlyn's point of view assists the reader in understanding Caitlyn's disability and causes one to have empathy for her which is ironic because those afflicted with Asperger's Syndrome are unable to feel empathy.
When I talk to students about reading books I tell them they must read every single word on the book: the title, bookcover flaps, blurb on the back, acknowledgements, copyright notes, title page, dedication, table of contents, prologue, epilogue, chapter notes, author notes. There is a purpose for every single bit of text on a book. There have been times when the author's notes in a book have moved me to tears. Kathryn Erskine's dedication in Mockingbird explains the title, author's purpose, and book: In hopes that we may all understand each other better.
Mockingbird caused me to reflect on my life. I really need to work on understanding people better. I am very patient with students, and work very hard to understand where they are coming from and try to relate to them keeping that background knowledge in the forefront. Sometimes, oy, most of the time I don't have that understanding with adults. I have to keep in mind positive intentions. I truly believe that those I work with don't wake up in the morning saying, "I wonder how I can make a child's life miserable today." I believe that teaching is a calling. Teachers are not teachers for the piles of money. Teachers are not teachers because it is an easy job. Teachers are teachers to make a difference in children's lives. Teachers do have positive intentions.
I have decided that I am going to print a picture of a mockingbird and put it on my office door so I see it every time I leave my office to help a teacher, work with students, or talk to anyone on campus. That mockingbird will be my symbol to better understand others.
No one is home right now, I think I will sneak a few bites of that decadent delight.
Okay, okay, I don't really want to, but I will try to better understand where Flip is coming from.
The Flip Side
Lizards come from their hidey-holes in the ground.