I do most of my reading while I’m driving.
Lest you picture me with an open book on my steering wheel casting only occasional glances at the road, allow me to explain.
As a high school English teacher, I find that most of my reading revolves around the essays I assign to my students (my students assure me that there is a simple solution to this problem!). Rarely am I left with large blocks of time to read selections of my choosing. As a result, I wrestle with guilt: guilt that I am not keeping up with current events; guilt that I am not reading books that will help me become a better teacher/husband/father/Christian/coach; guilt that I am not keeping up on books my students are reading (or should be).
I also wrestle with frustration. I am frustrated because I want to keep up on current events, become a better teacher/husband/father/Christian/coach, and read what my students are (or should be) reading. Moreover, I get frustrated because I want time to read what I want to read, without worrying about bettering myself in some way.
The best solution I’ve found is to read during my commute.
My commute to school takes about twenty-five minutes, and I’ve found that to be a great time to listen to books and podcasts for the simple reason that I can’t spend that time doing so many of the other things that vie for my time during the school day: I can’t grade; I can’t plan lessons; I can’t reply to emails; I can’t answer student questions.
So, I read.
This year alone I’ve read Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Black Swan and Antifragile, Dennis Bakke’s Joy at Work, David McCullough Jr.’s You Are Not Special: . . . And Other Encouragements, and reread portions of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters.
Sometimes, however, I find I need a break from books. This can happen when I am in a busy season of life or when my mental and emotional energy is stretched thin due to current events, my students’ senioritis, parenting woes, or cloudy Michigan winters. During these times, I find it difficult to stay in one book from day to day. My mind will wander too much.
This is when I turn to podcasts.
I like podcasts because I can listen to episodes from some programs in the time it takes me to ride to and from school. Others take me a few days, but, either way, after I’m done listening to one, I can switch to a different podcast or skip over a few to find one that is more interesting, without missing any critical information (this will not work as well for you, Serial fans!). Currently on my podcast playlist are Ask Science Mike, The Liturgists, and Donald Miller’s Building a Story Brand.
Although you may need to be creative to fit your reading in (switching from paper to audio, from longer books to shorter podcasts, or from self-help to science fiction), you owe it to yourself, your students, and your colleagues to make the time to read.
Recognizing that the reading needs and interests of CEJ subscribers are many and wide ranging, we have assembled an issue that we think will provide at least one resource of either professional or personal value to every teacher, professor, and administrator, regardless of area of expertise, years of experience, or reading preference.
And, remember, if you choose to read one of these newfound resources during your daily commute, please do so responsibly (hands free)!
Mark Brink teaches English at Unity Christian High School in Hudsonville, MI.