I am officially on summer vacation: my usual spring course was canceled due to low enrollment. That means for the first time in a long while (1994), I will be away from the classroom for nearly four months. Not that there is any shortage of work to do, of course: my main goal this summer is to write my sabbatical proposal that is due in the fall. If it is awarded, my sabbatical will take place in the fall of 2010.

I am currently thinking about a couple of things. My first idea was to continue work on an academic book that I have been writing and researching the last few months. The idea of this book is to make a case for creative teaching in the era of standards, testing, teacher-proof curriculum, and heavyweight textbook companies. More specifically, the book will arguing for thematic teaching of English and providing a number of creative conceptual units that I think will appeal to adolescent readers (including vampires, islands, sustainability, displacement, and more). I am only about ten pages into this project, which could easily consume a couple of years. Working title is “Vampires and Vegans: Designing Theme-Based Curricula for Adolescent Readers.”

The other idea has been on my mind for a long time, but has recently become really interesting. I just taught Ishmael Beah’s book I Long Way Gone in my 384 class. I also heard him speak at Grand Valley a few weeks ago. I am getting more and more interested in these displacement narratives. And moreover, my wife and I have been working closely with a student from Sierra Leone for the past four years. Like Beah, she fled from war. Like Beah, she lost her parents. And like Beah, she has an amazing story to tell. I would love to tell it, with her help, of course. She is currently a sophomore in the school where my wife teaches (and Lisa would help with the book), and has written some powerful stories about her time in Sierra Leone.

This second option is pretty compelling, though it falls outside my immediate expertise and would be a harder sell for the sabbatical committee. My first concern is for the mental well-being of the student, who has coped extremely well with her transition to American life. Might be better to leave those ghosts alone. And I really have not written this sort of non-fiction before. And then there’s the small matter of publishing: plenty of writers spend their lives trying to get published, so who’s to say I would get lucky on the first attempt?

Some early summer thoughts. For now, I’m continuing to read and trying to enjoy the warm weather. If you want to make any suggestions, feel free to leave a comment.