Passion and turtles

Hi everyone,

I just finished reading the excerpt from Still Life with Turtle by David Carroll. How shocked I was to find myself wanting to read more!!

As I began reading the excerpt, I thought “This kid must be blazed.” Carroll describes the first turtle encounter with such intensity that it seems unnatural. After that, the kid was left wanting more and more, and I thought he was addicted as one gets addicted to drugs. “Is this a metaphor for addiction?” I thought.

As I kept reading, I was delighted to realize that the boy had simply discovered passion. He engulfs himself in the “turtle world.” This was a beautiful way of looking at the discovery of new things. I think it would inspire most people to want to learn and travel. The boy says “Turtles, spotted turtles most significantly, were a living text.” (27) This is an active way of looking at your world, and a new trend in English Studies. In a course at Syracuse, we were asked to pick any object and read it as a “text.” I never fully understood the exercise. After reading this except, I finally understand. By looking at living texts, we can immerse ourselves in learning about that subject and we can “read” that subject in its context. The boy’s understanding of turtles is so much richer than anything he would read in a single book. If we, as teachers, could mimic this experience with other topics, we could bring our students to a much higher lever of learning.

As teachers, we should all think of ourselves as the boy, and we should think of his girl friend as our students. Imagine taking your students out into the world and physically showing them why they should care about learning. I know it might not be possible to physically travel someplace with them. But I think if we are creative, we can find ways to mimic the experience.




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4 responses to “Passion and turtles

  1. sunyprof

    Allison, what you say here about “living texts” is so interesting. Yes, the turtle is surely that for Carroll. The sensual description of the object of desire is, for me, metaphor for the intellectual life. What is it our minds fix on with Carroll’s passion for the “turtle world” as you say? You mention taking students out into the world and I agree with that — but this journey can also be a turning inward to find the self and what the self and what the self embraces as its central text.

    For me that has always been a journey with words–I think of my teaching/academic career as a life in words–mine, my students, and the connection to print I have made all of my life.

    But for someone else, the turtle signals a deep commitment to another phenomenom–and it is our work to help kids recognize, name, nurture and “work” that passion. As I said Tuesday night, I came to think of myself as a kind of talent scout — ELA teacher yes — but also a woman with a tuning fork who could feel/hear the vibrations of a student’s interests, talent, “turtle.”

    Thank you for posting on this passage from “Still Life with Turtle.” I hope others will let us know that they’re thinking about the reading. KES

  2. jillian24

    I really enjoyed the excerpt and was disappointed to reach the end of text without a resolution. I guess I’ll have to add it, like so many others, to my list.

    I saw it as a discovery of self and the tension that results from the joy of finding passion and the sadness of not being able to share that with those close to you. I was very interested in the relationship with the young girl and would like to know more about it.

    I wonder what students would view as their “turtle world”.


  3. ll123

    Since I was absent for sickness last Tuesday, I didn’t have the handouts for this week’s readings. But through Allison’s discription, and Dr. Stearns’ comment, I feel that this except got be interesting. I especially like Stearns’ “this journey can also be a turning inward to find the self and what the self and what the self embraces as its central text.” Wow, this can be used as a quote for our life experience. I absolutely agree with the self-finding concept.

  4. jexter1

    I enjoyed reading your perspective on “Turtle.” Most intriguing was your interpretation of the boy representing us teachers and the girl friend representing the students. How very true, that is. We should explore literature, themes and pedagogies with the students, not apart from them. Students should be immersed in their learning, which would include hands-on experiences. With physical and visual examples in addition to the reading assigned, students have the chance to find their beliefs and ideas in the world.

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