28. 185. 24. 80+. 34. 16. 3.

On January 7th my palms were sweaty. My thoughts blurred. And my confidence was -5.

No, it’s not because I ate the extra slice of pizza and bombed my New Year’s Resolution after seven days.

I was nervous to begin my 400/grad level course as a sophomore.

I was even more nervous when I found this warning label on the first page of the syllabus:

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WARNING: This course comes with its own warning label! First, it’s heavily reading-intensive: you should expect to read 1-2 full-length books each week plus 1-2 critical articles. The good news is that most of the books are fast, absorbing reads. Second, most of the books include controversial material. Young adult literature, for reasons we’ll discuss, deals with the hard stuff. Some of it may push your buttons. Be prepared for story lines that address death, drug use, rape, abuse, sex, power, poverty.

What did I sign myself up for???

Well, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the course, I signed up for:

The “A” Contract:
• Reading: assigned + independent reading goal (to total 4 extra reading hours per week)
• Social Media tools: Goodreads.com; Twitter; RSS feed on GoogleReader; Blog, Delicious
• Book talks: 5
• Weekly Article
• Inquiry Project
• Collaborative Final Exam in GoogleDocs

I had no choice but to begin flipping pages.

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Throughout the course of the semester, I expanded my reading horizon and explored graphic novels, middle grade literature, YA, and books with sensitive topics.

My favorite book of the required reading was The Hunger Games, but I also liked thought-provoking books like Out of the Dust, Yummy, The First Part Last, and especially Speak which centers around the topic of rape.

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When I become an English teacher, I know my students will benefit from reading YA books about sensitive topics like gangs, the death of family members, and teenage pregnancy.

Although I enjoyed the required reading, I vastly enjoyed the independent reading because I had the power to read books that intrigued me.

My favorite book, which tied with Hunger Games, of course, was Divergent. I can hardly wait for this fall when third book in trilogy will be released!

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In fact, I’m not sure which I’m more excited about, Catching Fire the movie (Hunger Games #2) on November 22 or the release of Allegiant (Divergent #3) on October 22.

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Another excellent book I independently read this semester was Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief which would be an excellent addition to the required reading list. The next book on my to-read list is The Perks of Being a Wallflower (I’ve heard it’s an excellent book and a hilarious movie).

I also had the opportunity to begin an online professional portfolio, including accounts at Goodreads, Twitter, WordPress, and Diigo. Now prospective employers can Google my name and see all of the work I’ve done as a professional.

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I particularly liked being introduced to the professional world of Twitter. Users can ‘follow’ authors and other professional educators or participate in educational Twitter chats, all to stimulate professional development.

For example, the Twitter chat I participated in revolved around helping students find their own unique voice.

As a class, Twitter also kept us in touch with each other. We were required to Tweet five times per week and add the hashtag #Eng438 to all of our Tweets. I liked hearing what my classmates were reading and learning. The exchange of ideas on Twitter is truly fascinating.

As a self-proclaimed Twitter semi-professional, I will continue to learn from Twitter in order to become a better teacher.

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I also enjoyed honing in on my blogging skills. I’ve always liked writing; blogging gave me reason to write regularly.

It reminded me of my days on the high school newspaper, which were a lot of fun!

Book talks were another great way to develop as a professional. By recording myself for book talks, I got practice talking about the books I like which will come in handy as a teacher. Book talks are an excellent way to get students’ hands on books and get them excited to read!

However, my most embarrassing moment made the best blog. You can read about my library experience and instantly feel better about your day!

Reading my classmates’ blogs was also a treat. It was interesting to see other thoughts on the required reading. Their blogs also reminded me that I wasn’t alone in the #Eng438 journey.

The pinnacle of the year was when I got asked if I was reading for school or for pleasure. I simply smiled and replied, “Both.”

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Reading is fun. Reading is an excellent learning tool. Reading is self-reflective.

I have immensely enriched my reading life and professional knowledge. For example, I’ve thoroughly explored the theories of Penny Kittle and Nancie Atwell who both believe in the reader’s workshop. When I have my own classroom I want to model it after the reader’s workshop.

At the beginning of this semester I didn’t know what YA was. Now I understand how YA can impact young adults.

I’ve also developed reading stamina, increased my reading speed and learned how to become a great reading teacher, all through Adolescent Literature.

This semester can be boiled down to 7 numbers: 28 blogs, 185 tweets, 24 articles, 80+ reading hours, 34 books, 16 weeks, and 3 college credits.

Yeah, I’m going to miss this class.

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