Read What You Preach

I am taking the English Praxis at the beginning of December. This exam will determine if I am eligible to apply for my teaching certification in Pennsylvania. Despite having a prep book since June, I have not started studying for it. 

It is not that I am procrastinating. Or that I am so confident I will pass that I do not need to study. It is time—something I (probably all of us) never seem to have enough of. 

So, during a class on Tuesday, I skimmed through my classmate’s prep book for the Praxis. We were talking about the amount of terms and writers and texts and movements that seemed impossible to know by the time we all take the exam (within the month, actually—good luck everyone!). I flipped to some section that I want to say was either modernist or contemporary writers, and saw the name Nikki Giovanni. 

*Here is some context for my ensuing anecdote: My classmates—friends, I should say at this point, we have had almost every class together for four years—think I know everything about English. Believe me when I say, I do not. I also do not know where this idea came from, because also believe me when I say, I will never pretend to be that person. But, here we are, with me, the English Pundit.

I looked up and said, “Why would they have Nikki Giovanni here? It’s great they’re including her, but I feel like she’s such a strange writer to include when we never read her in school.” Everyone followed up by saying “Oh, of course Chris knows who that is.” 

Well, I have a secret for everyone (something I did not reveal at the time—maybe I do want to be the English Pundit a little bit): I only learned about her a week ago. 

Last week, I published the African American Writers guide, and guess who is on it? Nikki Giovanni. And also guess what I can tell you about Ms. Giovanni: that she was born in the 1940s, is still living, and that she once had a picture taken of her where she is holding her glasses and has what seems to be a buzzed haircut. Nothing else. I think she mainly wrote poetry, but I could not tell you for sure. I can not name anything she wrote, either. 

I just have not had the time to read any of Nikki Giovanni’s work. Or James Weldon Johnson’s or Nella Larson’s or Alex Hayley’s or Rita Dove’s. I want to, but just like how I have not studied for an exam that will tell me if I can, or cannot, use what I went to college for, I simply have not had the time to read who I research. 

And the research I am doing, as surface as it is, has, once again, opened my eyes to how much information is out there. I know, I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but I do not think I can even begin to stress the void that is literature, enough. I am learning so much about what it means to create a user-friendly webpage, how to write professionally, and how to discern what information is most important for a guide, but the best part of this internship, for me, is how many books I get to buy once the holidays come around. It will not be great for my wallet, but maybe I will finally be able to tell my friends Nikki Giovanni’s best poem. 

I plan on starting to study for the Praxis today, and every day, until December 8th—I finally have some wiggle room to study for something a month out. Will a month be enough? I guess we will find out soon, but as we all know, there is just so much information out there, how could I possibly learn it all?


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