Remember how I swore up and down that I didn’t want to teach? Turns out I was wrong.
Your first assignment, without which this post will still be understandable (and hopefully enjoyable) but won’t be as clear:
- Watch The Willoughbys on Netflix.
- Read The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry.
We love the movie. It’s a bit dark, but it’s colorfully animated, quirky, and features an adorable baby, Maya Rudolph (I love that woman), and Ricky Gervais as a snarky blue cat. When I learned that it started life as a chapter book by the author of some of my favorite childhood books, I had to pick up a copy. The kids are really getting into chapter books as of late, and I’d rather read children’s books than no books. (Books, I miss you. I’m coming back, I swear.)
The book is almost entirely different from the movie. The basic premise is still there — bad parents, mistreated kids, orphaned baby, eccentric candy-making millionaire, lovable nanny, cat. But it’s very much like what they’ve been doing with Stephen King adaptations as of late: Putting plot elements on scraps of paper, dumping the paper into a wind machine, and stringing together a plot based on the order in which the scraps fly out. Okay, I know that’s not what they’re doing. (Maybe a raffle tumbler, though.) And the Willoughby movie isn’t as drastically different from the source material as, say, The Stand reboot (about which I Have Opinions); it’s more streamlined and simplified, with the major plot deviations serving mostly to reinforce the black-and-white depiction of several moral issues. The book is just a huge gray moral gradient, and the kids had loads of questions along the way about differences between the two. Much as I have questions about the way TS2020 treated Mother Abigail and Nick Andros.
So, so many questions.
Anyway. We finished the book last night, and today I asked Anya what she thought about it. I explained some of the connections and differences to her and we talked about why they made those choices. It hit me, as we were talking, that this is a wonderful way for her to dip her toes into the lit crit waters without struggling with words on a page: Listen to an audiobook (either on Audible or AudiMama), watch the movie, and compare. Ideas for assignments flooded in, and I had to zip it lest I overwhelm her at 7:30 in the morning. It hit me then: I am a teacher. I may not have the credentials, or the classroom, or the paycheck, or even a shred of respect as an educator in the eyes of the profession, but I am a teacher. I love to teach. Maybe not as a job — dealing with a room full of people who for the most part could care less about what I’m saying, navigating the pitfalls of academia. But teaching this child, finding ways to bring learning to her, is endlessly fascinating to me.
I don’t know about horses and water, but I will find a way to bring the wonders of language to my baby girl. No matter what it takes.