The Upside of Educating

One of the benefits of being a teacher is that every so often you come across great discounts for educators. This weekend (and up until Tuesday) Borders offered an educator’s discount of 25% off all books, CDs, and DVDs. (I don’t know if that’s nation-wide or just in my area.) On Friday night they had a “reception” for teachers, which consisted of an employee manning a table with cookies and teacher’s guides and posters; I picked up a free copy of Madeline l’Engle’s “Wrinkle in Time” (which I read in the 6th grade, so it’s about due for a re-reading — and I hope I can get my step-kids to read it) as well as posters for the last Harry Potter book and Dinosaurs. We have a loft where the kids’ computer is set up, so I decided to decorate it with these and a couple of other posters I have (a timeline of scientific discoveries and a mp of the human genome).

Even with a bag full of teacher freebies at my side and a steep discount, though, I ended up spending way too much — and loving it. I picked up a bunch of children’s books, including Sing Down the Mountain by Scott O’Dell (of Island of the Blue Dolphins fame), Charles de Lint’s young adult noel Little (Grrrl) Lost, Neil Gaiman’s new collection of short stories M is for Magic, and a couple of others. I’m really looking forward to reading these and sharing them with my step-kids!

I did find myself in an unexpected awkward moment, though — my 11-year old step-daughter somehow came across Uncle Tom’s Cabin and, even more unexpectedly, wanted to get it. Now, Uncle Tom’s Cabin is somewhere around 700 pages and written in fairly dry 19th century language. As much as I’d like to see her read it, I’m pretty sure she’d run out of steam after a hundred pages or so. So do I discourage her from taking on a “serious” work of major historical importance, or do I let her try and possibly fail? I have pretty strong feelings about challenging kids with material that is beyond them so they grow into the material, and I’m also not against failure as a general rule, but still — this is Uncle Tom’s Cabin we’re talking about, really demanding reading.

Well, I compromised. I told he that we’d check it out of the library next week. Since she’s got a couple of other books on her todo list in the meantime, she probably won’t finish it in the 6 weeks (3 weeks and a 3-week renewal) the library allows, but if she likes it, we can go back and get her a copy. It’s not expensive — I’m more worried about having that huge brick of a book that we’d have to find a place for (with several heavy readers in the house, shelf space is at a premium!) than the couple of dollars I’d save by buying it with the discount.

All the kids got something, though — she got the second book in the series she’s reading now, my 12-year old stepson got a book about drawing dragons, and my 5-year old stepson got a Power Rangers coloring book (which I suspect interested him more for the two plastic Power Ranger figures that came with it than for the coloring, though he did color a few pictures before bedtime). My partner got some knitting books out of the deal, and me, I got a ton of books to review in the coming weeks here at StepDadding.

It pays to be a teacher. We’re underpaid, overworked, and constantly held up as the root of all America’s social problems, but we get pretty good discounts from time to time.

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