I really enjoyed the first three chapters of Christenbury’s Retracing the Journey. It is a quick read but also very rich. I was immediately impressed with Christenbury’s career history, which she detailed on page one, and includes working in a variety of educational settings. I only wish we could all be so lucky and have such a diverse background working with a wide range of students. I think this is a tremendous asset.
Further, in chapter 1 on page 3, I was reminded of Appleman’s discussions about theory in her book and how it disrupted the lives of her students, who, as I remember, were complaining about deconstruction. Christenbury writes about the parents of her students, who felt that their “children’s happiness was paramount” along with their “undisturbed sense of being” (3). This leads me to wonder if any of the kids in this school have been exposed to anything provocative and controversial in their ELA and/or other classes, since the goals of their families appear to be keeping them sheltered. Based on the student responses in chapter three about what they hope to learn in their English class with Christenbury, I assume that they have not been engaged in many meaningful activities. They view English class as many do: a place to read literature. No student mentioned exploring social issues or doing any exciting projects, which I was surprised about.
Christenbury feels more like a real person through her narrative than Gruwell did, and I think part of this is the fact that she allows us to read excerpts from her personal journal, which reveal her apprehensions, that I think we can all appreciate her bare honesty. Regardless of having been in the field for decades, she still discusses issues that I think we can all envision ourselves encountering. As oppose to meeting Stephen Spielberg, we will more likely than not be faced with poor school conditions, unenthusiastic kids, etc. I look forward to seeing where this story goes!