For the second straight year, the Albion community has received a National Endowment for the Arts grant for The Big Read. The grant will fund a month-long community celebration of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, and although The Big Read itself won't take place until October, former Briton softball center fielder Alice Garvin spent part of her summer assisting Associate Professor of English Jess Roberts and Assistant Director of Albion's Big Read Madeline Drury, ’15, in training the middle and high school students who will lead community book discussions.
“As soon as the first student walked in I knew why I was participating,” Garvin, who had to endure an early wake up call to make the nearly 80-mile commute from her home in Livonia, Mich., to campus for the six training sessions on Wednesday mornings and the one-week camp. “I am going to be a high school English teacher so I would love to have half the enthusiasm and passion Jess (who served as Garvin’s academic adviser and teacher for multiple classes) has. I thought this would be something that would be awesome for me as an aspiring high school English teacher to have experience with.
“I had always wanted to work more with students in the community,” Garvin, who will be unable to play in the spring while completing her student teaching assignment, but hopes to continue as a mentor to the Briton squad with 18 first-year players, added. “I volunteered for events sponsored by the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee like the winter carnival and clinics, but I had never worked with students like this.”
While Garvin reaped the rewards of watching the 18 students become more confident as they discussed key themes of the book, she also gained an appreciation for making personal connections with each student and the importance of movement to keep students engaged in the learning process.
“I read Fahrenheit 451 in high school and we didn’t talk about half of the things we talked about in The Big Read discussions,” Garvin said. “There are some challenging parts. Ray Bradbury is an incredible writer, and he has a way to make the reader feel flustered and confused. Most readers don’t like that, and I think the students did really well. There were some points when all of us looked to Jess for context on what happened.
“Energy levels would go through the roof when we would go outside to play a game, and the energy went down a little bit when we would go inside the classroom for discussion,” Garvin said. “Getting the students’ energy level high and learning about the students personally – asking questions about their lives – is important. Learning about the students provides insight into their learning style and how they develop ideas.”