An English Teacher’s Guide to This Week in Nashville

It’s been a big week here in Music City, and not in a good way. During the night Monday, tornadoes ripped through Middle Tennessee, leaving a path of devastation about 50 miles long. As my English class and I discussed analyzing literature this week, I stumbled upon an interesting connection to these storms.

One of the ways we discuss literature is in terms of connections we make to the text. As we draw parallels between what we are reading and the bigger picture, we cover three main types of connections: text to self, text to text, and text to world.

Text to self connections are the connections readers make between themselves and the characters and/or situations in a work of literature. Text to text connections ask us to relate what we are currently reading to other works we have read. And text to world connections challenge us to see how what we are reading reminds us of people and events in our world.

But as I reviewed this concept with my students this week, I realized that this isn’t just a tool we use to analyze literature, it is our default setting for processing life, especially the unexpected.

As we see the pictures and videos of the storm damage, we naturally begin to start drawing connections to ourselves: have friends in East Nashville. I went to Tennessee Tech and know people who are there now. own a business and don’t know if the building is okay. And the list goes on and on as we begin calling and texting friends and family to make sure everyone is okay.

Then, as the first wave of panic begins to die down, we start making connections between this situation and other situations: the 2008 tornado on Super Tuesday, the flood of 2010, and so on. I think it is our brain’s way of reminding us that we’ve survived hard times before, and we begin to call on those past experiences as a way of tapping into our muscle memory for our ability to rise.

Then, the most beautiful connection of all is made when we see this situation as a way to connect (or reconnect) with our community.

It is said that when an anthill is destroyed, the ants immediately begin to rebuild.

Immediately.

And that is just what we do here in Nashville. We roll up our sleeves and we start to rebuild, and as we rebuild what was damaged physically, may we also rebuild each of those connections even stronger!

-Photo by Brandon Jean, Unsplash-

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