Wednesday, June 27, 2007

And in case you missed it...

I didn't post the Saturday Review of Books this past weekend. And while I'm at it, here's this week's Education Carnival.

I rarely use Internet Explorer, and my blog looks the way it's supposed to when I use Firefox. The computer I'm working on now doesn't have Firefox loaded on it, so I'm forced to use IE. I can't understand the spacing on my blogroll. Most of it is fine, but then all of a sudden it starts double spacing. I can't figure out why. So the moral is, use Firefox and the blogroll will look fine.

Eight Facts

My friend Tricia tagged me for a meme where I'm supposed to give you eight random facts about myself. I'm supposed to post the rules first but they seem fairly self-explanatory to me, so if you want to read them, go to Tricia's blog for that.

So here goes...

1. I took my first airplane trip at the age of seven weeks, and so did my daughter.
2. When I was little I used to eat lemons, skin, seeds, and all, straight from the tree in our yard.
3. I have been a registered student in four different countries.
4. I like almost every kind of food I've ever tasted, but I think Indian may be my favorite.
5. My worst subject in school was P.E. and I have many bad memories associated with that miserable class.
6. I'm very careful on stairs because I once fell down a flight and broke my leg - this happened while I was pregnant with my first child.
7. I took piano lessons for years but I can't play.
8. I hate the word utilize - why can't people just say use?

I can't keep track of who has already done this meme and who hasn't. In fact, I think I may have done it already myself, but I can't find it on my blog. If you want to share random facts, consider yourself tagged!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Reading Update

I finished books 45 - 48 of 2007 before leaving home. Here they are:

Day One and Beyond: Practical Matters for New Middle-Level Teachers, by Rick Wormeli. I enjoyed this book very much and picked up some useful tips. As I said before, I like his attitude towards middle school students. And I got a comment from the author last night, which was cool!

Living and Teaching the Writing Workshop, by Kristen Painter. This was my second time reading this one. It's helpful for teachers who are trying to write more themselves - full of exercises you can do and how to share your own writing with your students.

Words, Words, Words: Teaching Vocabulary in Grades 4-12, by Janet Allen. Allen summarizes the research on what works best in vocabulary instruction and includes many practical tips for working with words. There are some reproducibles in the book that I will definitely be using.

Managing Your Classroom with Heart: A Guide for Nurturing Adolescent Learners, by Katy Ridnouer. It's obvious that Ridnouer teaches in a very different environment from mine, and some of what she deals with makes me thankful for where I work. This was another helpful teacher book, and focuses on treating your students as individuals and showing concern for them, without having them walk all over you.

Still working on War and Peace...

Saturday, June 23, 2007


I wrote this last night, but didn't have an opportunity to post it.

Hours in US: 30
Number of different states seen on license plates: 35
Number of blowouts: 2
Number of blowouts previously experienced by my husband in nearly 30 years of driving: 1
Hours spent in tire shop: 2
New tires bought: 4 (After the first blowout we only got one new one, but after the second we went ahead and replaced the rest.)
Amount of money spent that we weren't planning on: I could figure this out, since I have all the receipts, but it would be a depressing statistic.
Number of issues of People I read in the second tire shop, thus updating my sadly lacking knowledge about celebrities and inspiring the format for this post: approximately 5
Number of times we thanked God for bringing us safely to today's destination: many

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Carnival At the Beach!

Since we teacher-types are just loafing around these days, this week's Carnival is at the beach!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Reading Update

Books 40-44 of 2007...

Book 40 was The Town on Beaver Creek: The Story of a Lost Kentucky Community, by Michelle Slatalla. I read this for my book group and enjoyed it. It's about a town in Kentucky that regularly flooded, to the point where finally the town was abandoned and rebuilt. The author, who works for the New York Times, decided to preserve some of the memories of her family, many of whom lived in this town. The book is beautifully written. I had a little trouble keeping track of all the characters, how they were related, and what generation each belonged to. Come on, that's hard enough with my own family. I would have liked to have a family tree to flip to.

Book 41 was written by my guest speaker back in February. I'm not going to post a link to it - it isn't available on Amazon anyway - but to any of my readers who live here in Tecwil and read French, I recommend it. Email me and I'll give you more information about it. It was really interesting to read his take on events that I was here for, and also many that were before my time. Fascinating stuff. I'm sorry I waited so long to read it. It's just that when I'm reaching for a book to read for relaxation, I generally go for the stuff in English...

Book 42 was Retrovirus, by T.L. Higley. This was loaned to me by a colleague, who knows the author. It was well-done, fast-paced...not really so much my kind of book, but I enjoyed it nevertheless. It did irritate me that a lot of the suspense was ruined by the blurb on the back of the book. Just don't read that. It gives you information you aren't supposed to get until three quarters of the way through the book.

Book 43 was The Teacher's Guide to Big Blocks Grades 4-8. I started reading this a while ago after a professional development seminar, but I finally finished it. A lot of the things in it I'm already doing, but there are some very helpful suggestions I'm planning to implement next year. I know it's weird, but I do a lot of professional reading during the summer usually. It's a good time to start thinking about how I'm going to handle things next time around.

I was going to leave out book 44, but honesty compels me to admit I read it: Gossip Girl, by Cecily Von Ziegesar. I got this for my classroom library at a book sale the seniors were having. Some of the older kids were getting rid of their own books that they were through with. I brought the pile into my classroom without studying them very much except just to see that they looked like stuff my kids would enjoy. I gave this to one girl, and after reading the first few pages she came and put it on my desk and said she didn't want to read it. I asked her why and she muttered something about the language. I felt mortified that I'd given her a book to read that had disgusted her that much, because this girl is a very strong reader and has read many books written for adults. Well, the other night I decided to read it just to see what it was like. I'm afraid I agree with my student. The casual alcohol and drug use and promiscuity make the book inappropriate for my middle schoolers. The characters are shallow, horrible people, and I hope they aren't really reflective of the milieu they are representing - rich kids in New York City. I know these books - there's a whole series - are popular, but bleck, in my opinion.

And now I'm back with War and Peace - I'm hoping to at least make a big dent in it this summer. I'm also reading Day One and Beyond: Practical Matters for New Middle-Level Teachers, by Rick Wormeli. This is a great - and as the title suggests, very practical - book. It's full of ways to deal with the stuff that drives you crazy when you're teaching. I like his attitude towards middle schoolers - affectionate, but with high standards.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Chinua Achebe Wins Booker Prize

I am thrilled to read that Chinua Achebe has been awarded the Man Booker International Prize. I love his book Things Fall Apart, and I also liked No Longer at Ease (I'm not sure why that Amazon link calls it "No Loger at Ease") and A Man of the People, which is about Nigerian politics and is well worth reading by anybody who's observed third world-style politics anywhere.

Saturday Review of Books

I was out all morning doing painful but necessary things like getting vaccinations for the kids and getting a haircut for myself. Now I'm - yes - in my classroom. No school work to do, thankfully, but the internet at home still isn't working. I'm waiting for a callback (from the tech person) promised early Wednesday afternoon. Do you think the guy is going to call me back?

So anyway, here's the Saturday Review of Books.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Back in my Classroom

Sure enough, I'm back in my room, since we are having internet problems at home and I can't get the tech people to do anything about it. I spent lots of time yesterday working on it, first trying to take care of it over the phone, and then trying to get a tech person to come over, but no luck.

But anyway, at least I can check email in my classroom, and I had been missing it, so it gave me a chance to visit, too!

What do you know, the Education Carnival is up!

Monday, June 11, 2007


I managed to take the "couple of hours" of work and make them last all day! Hooray for me! I finally got checked out this afternoon, though. Now, in theory, I shouldn't have to enter my classroom again until August. I tried to bring everything with me that I would need - the books I need to use, mainly. We'll see if I succeeded. I've seen blogs by people who say they get locked out of their classrooms on the last teacher work day and aren't allowed back in until the teacher work days at the beginning of the next school year. Fortunately, we can come and go as much as we want. It's a bit of an adjustment for me to stay away for very long after working there six days a week since school began!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

48 Hour Book Challenge

I've been seeing references to this on various book blogs I read, and as far as I can understand, people are doing just the essentials this weekend, eating, sleeping, showering, taking care of their children, going to church or wherever they need to go, and then spending the rest of their time reading.

I don't get it. This is what I always do, every weekend. (Oh, but I usually add grading and working in my classroom to the list above.)

But anyway. This is a great opportunity to find loads of book reviews, because in addition to reading the books, they are blogging about them. Here's a link to the explanation of the whole deal, including a list of the participants.

In case you don't know, I'm exaggerating somewhat. I don't really spend every moment either doing an essential task or reading. But I do spend a lot of time reading.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Ahem, not quite

I made some good progress, but I'm not completely finished. Another couple of hours should do it, but not today. I'm going to save it for Monday. Right now, I'm going home.

Work Day

Yesterday was a national holiday, and I didn't set foot on campus. Today is a work day. We're having a faculty meeting and finishing up in our classrooms. I've done about half of my checkout sheet, but I still have to cover all my shelves. I also want to rearrange my furniture a little bit in preparation for next year - I'm thinking if I put my big bookcase against a different wall, I'll have more space. We'll have to try it and see.

After today, I hope I'll be completely done in my classroom.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

What I've Read Lately

Books 35 through 39 of 2007:

Troy: Shield of Thunder, by David Gemmell. This is the second in a proposed trilogy, but sadly, Gemmell died before completing the third. I enjoyed this one, but it left me wishing I knew more about Homer's writing. I wasn't automatically noticing all those characters and saying, "Oh yeah, I remember that." The main ones, yes, but not even all that many of them. What I liked best about this was the way the character of Odysseus would take ordinary events and turn them into fabulous, mythological stories. The origins of the Circe story were particularly entertaining.

A Certain Justice, by P.D. James. I've read this book before. I love P.D. James' novels about Adam Dalgliesh. She's very good on class in England and her characters are all hyper-aware of where they come from, their accents, and how they feel inferior to other people with "better" origins. The funny thing is that I never remember who actually did the murder, so I can read them again and again.

Playing for the Ashes, by Elizabeth George. Can you believe Elizabeth George is American? I hardly can. She is so amazing at writing like a Brit. This one is pretty distasteful in places. I even learned a couple of new-to-me British bad words - and if you consider that I went to high school in England, you'll see how surprising that is.

Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood, by Ann Brashares. In this one, the Traveling Pants girls are nineteen or so, and in my opinion it's now out of the middle school zone occupied by my students, not just because the heroines are older, but because the content really isn't appropriate for them. Middle school girls will still, I'm sure, read it avidly. And it's very readable.

The Plot Against America, by Philip Roth. I've never read a book quite like this one. The genre is called "alternative history," but this won an award for historical novels, as well. The premise is that in 1940, instead of Roosevelt being re-elected, Charles Lindbergh became President of the United States. Philip, the protagonist (yes, he's called Philip Roth, just like the author), is a Jewish boy living in Newark, and this is the story of how events play out for his family. It's completely convincing, and Roth makes some very good observations about history. Here's one: "And as Lindbergh's election couldn't have made clearer to me, the unfolding of the unforeseen was everything. Turned wrong way round, the relentless unforeseen was what we schoolchildren studied as 'History,' harmless history, where everything unexpected in its own time is chronicled on the page as inevitable. The terror of the unforeseen is what the science of history hides, turning a disaster into an epic." And later: "'Because what's history?' he asked rhetorically when he was in his expansive dinnertime instructional mode. 'History is everything that happens everywhere. Even here in Newark. Even here on Summit Avenue. Even what happens in his house to an ordinary man -- that'll be history too someday.'" It's scary to think that one small shift in events could make everything turn out so differently, but that's what this book is about. I wonder how Lindbergh's family reacted to it - he certainly doesn't come out of it very well. Roth includes a section of documentation on all the major characters who are historical, and many of Lindbergh's words and actions do lead one to believe that he might have done the kind of things he does in the book, given the chance.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Last Day of School Carnival

Those Education Wonks are still working hard - enjoy this week's Carnival.

Last Day of School

No posts since Saturday, because I've been working madly to be finished with everything. All that's left on my "work" to-do list now is cleaning my classroom. Yesterday the eighth graders were promoted to high school. I had to stay at school late yesterday for the Middle School party in the evening, and I finished up all my grade-posting and various other tasks. Today I have my seventh graders briefly before they go off for their fun time.

And then...we're done for the year!

Finally! This has been the longest school year on record, I think. Part of that is that the stability in the country was quite good, and we only had two extra days off that could be traced to political problems this year (really, this time, security problems). Last year it was more like three weeks. I'm not complaining about the stability, though - it has been a great blessing.

Now I'm off to survive this last day!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Theme Day on Daily Photo Blogs

Hooray! It's a theme day again on the City DP blogs. This month the theme is "The View from my Bedroom Window." Here's Eric's in Paris, and he also has links to the other blogs that are participating. Can't wait to go look at them.