Saturday, January 3, 2009

In Favor of Resolutions

My I state without apologies that I think making New Years resolutions is a good thing. I know, I know. I've seen the statistics showing the number of people that fail to follow through, the percentage that go by the wayside. I don't think that's a good reason not to make resolutions though. I've also seen statistics on how many people do not wash their hands in public restrooms if they don't think anyone is watching. I don't think that should convince us just to give up the practice.

In truth, I think we need to renew our resolutions more often. I've always believed that for most of us, the beginning of the school year is as much of a time for resolutions as January 1. As a student and now as a teacher, I always take that time to revisit my goals, to think about where I didn't do all I knew I should or could before, and to resolve to do better. Maybe what we should do is set dates quarterly to do so--maybe on those four days a year when we are supposed to change our filters in our home heating/cooling systems.

Not to make any resolutions is to admit defeat, to accept mediocrity. I plan to write mine down then to make four calendar reminder notes to give me a chance to check my vital signs.

I won't bore you with the ones everyone makes--eating less, eating right, exercising more. I do have some specific ones related to my literary life though:

I am resolved to make up for my failure to complete my daily reading through the Bible last year following John MacArthur's schedule--a little Old Testament, a little New Testament, something from the Psalms and from Proverbs each day. Rather than starting over, I'm backing up just a bit from where I stopped and starting January 1 on the reading for August 1. That puts me in the book of Esther and in I Corinthians.

I plan to read or reread some of the classics this year. I want to read Tess again, along with Crime and Punishment, Don Quixote (the new translation that came out just three or so years ago), To Kill a Mockingbird (since all of Charlotte is reading it this year), Little Women (since I've just finished March, the Hickory Big Read.)

I also want to read more of the Lemuria First Editions Club selections that arrive each month at my front door. I've almost never been disappointed. Having said that, I'm going to try not to let others dictate my reading choices too often. I will continue to read whatever book club chooses through our semi-democratic process, but I am not going to read anything that I would consider a waste of reading time just to avoid feeling guilty because someone else passes a book along. Likewise, I plan not to foist anything on anyone else in the same manner. That does not mean I won't be sharing book titles with my reading friends.

I'm going to work through my own bookshelves and find those hidden treasures I bought for a reason and just haven't gotten around to reading. I am resolved not to care how trendy or current they are. I won't read a book just because Oprah suggested it or because everyone else is reading it, but I won't avoid a book for the same reason either.

I plan to read more poetry this year. I plan to write more poetry this year. I am resolved to encourage others to read more poetry this year. In fact, I plan to keep a book of poems in my car and/or in my purse at all times, so that when I'm stuck waiting for the car inspection or sitting in the doctor's waiting room, I won't read old magazines. I'll enrich my life with a poem.
I am even going out on a limb: I am going to buy more books of poetry. If the publishing industry is struggling now, the poetry publishers always have been. (In Guy Clark's song, "Cold Dog Soup," he sings: "There ain't no money in poetry. That's what sets the poet free, but I've had all the freedom I can stand.")

One professional resolution I want to make is to begin in earnest my research on the effect of Accelerated Reading and other similar programs in elementary and middle school meant to increase reading but, I suspect, stifling the love of reading. My evidence is purely spotty right now--the testimony of my own children and of high school students I've taught. I want to learn why people quit loving the reading experience. Then I want to figure out how to change that.

That's enough for now. I guess I'll stack my current reads: The MacArthur Daily Bible, The Flat Belly Diet (see aforementioned annual resolutions), The Bible Salesman and a companion read, Yvonne Mason's Reading, Learning, Teaching Clyde Edgerton. I'm reading to put Austenland into my car CD player and Billy Collins' Ballistics in my purse. I'm stacking Gordon Korman's The Juvie Three and Ann Haywood Leal's Also Known as Harper near my bed. Let the New Year roll!

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