Thursday, April 10, 2014

Teaching Today

Today I set up a "fun" lesson.  My 9th graders have been exploring law and deciding if they're going to our Law Academy for their next three years of high school. They're a diverse lot, with a common thread: they are more open and forthcoming than any group I've had in ten years. They aren't children who've been coddled, but rather, they come from hard working families and are expected to contribute. Some of them are better off than others, but they, for the most part, make few judgements. They impress me daily. 
Yesterday we had some fun with out-dated laws, so today we took a look at some dumb criminals.  There are a few young men in my classes who wear their pants low enough that I will say, "My goodness, hike up those trousers, you're traumatizing me!" and they laugh and tug up their pants. When those same boys watched would-be thieves trying to run off with their loot only to have their pants trip them up, their laughter was loudest. I often admonish them: "Be classy!" so one young man today said, "Hey Miss, that sure wasn't classy!" when a fellow who was attempting to make off with a case of beer fell flat on his face as the cans rolled away.  We discussed the laws explained by the Discovery Investigation show, and the criminals' behavior, and then we went to ABC's dumb crime videos. 
As we all know, one video leads to another on sites like these, and the title of an unrelated video caught our collective eye. It seems a young man killed his parents about an hour south of our high school, and the judgement has just come back in his trial. 
If ever an impromptu problem solving lesson worked, this was it. 
The students frequently asked to pause the video to discuss the details and merits of the case, the testimony given, the "look" of the defendant and the interview of his best friend.  They questioned the interviewer's tactics, the program's agenda, and the mystery of why none of us had heard of this case.  I was in awe.  They didn't even realize they were brilliant, kind, analytical, and sensitive. They were just thinking. And learning. So was I. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

John Green, writer, vlogger, nerdfighter extrordinaire

John Green is one of those writers who feels like a friend.  He writes YA Lit, and has some amazing YouTube videos which give his readers and fans some insight into his personality - much more so than the writers of my youth did.

I remember feeling like authors were something akin to Angels - you couldn't see or talk to them, but you knew they were "out there somewhere" doing good in your life.  It's probably good that one of my favorite authors, Roald Dahl, did not have a YouTube account, because since his death I've read some unpleasant things about him, which I hope are exaggerations, or better yet - simply not true.

However, John Green has an energy and enthusiasm that is positively catchy.  His Crash Course videos are delivered at break-neck speed, and quite often my students report that they were forced to "rewind" and watch them several times over.  I say Good!  Repetition is not the devil it has been made out to be.

The book of Green's that impacted me first was Looking for Alaska.  The voices and ideas in the story are so teen-aged, that I looked to see if the writer was indeed a teenager himself.  He was not.  Young, yes, but no teen.  And yet, he remembers.  He remembers extremely well -- and that is evident in his other novels as well, particularly in The Fault in Our Stars. 

I'm not going to talk about his books.  Plenty of other bloggers have done that already, and you can find tons of questions and information on John's Tumbler account, and in many other places.  Just Google him.  And before you do  - check out his books, and read them for yourself. You'll thank me later.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Busy reading... ?

I borrowed a book from the library six days ago and promptly got too busy to read. That shouldn't happen.

This afternoon I was determined that nothing was going to stand in my way and as I began reading I realized that I've started this book before. I probably borrowed it from the library before, and got too busy to read.

I like to be busy, don't get me wrong. I just don't want to be busy doing the wrong things, like sitting around playing a mindless trivia game on my phone (yes, I admit it, I do this sometimes ... I consider it therapy - it's a quiz after all!) for HOURS.  Housework is a real issue.  There are not enough hours in the day to work full time, do housework, cook meals, and read.   So, I have to work, and while I don't eat very much, I do need to eat.  I can say this with honesty too - I need to read.  There are people who will completely understand that, and others who will cock their heads to one side, perhaps, and say, "Need?  I doubt it."

And so my reader friends, I forego daily housework. And why not? It'll only be dusty again tomorrow. I do regular cleanings, and while I do, I pretend it's someone else's house.  That way I don't get bogged down putting things away.  I just chuck it all in a basket, and leave it on a chair for the owner (me, later) to go through.  Works like a charm.

Now, back to that book... 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

11/22/63 Stephen King - Part 3 Living in the Past

Jake, in advance of Lee Oswald, heads for Dallas in a hurry when life in Florida gets too hot. Not talking weather, so you'll have to read for yourself to see what I mean. 
Dallas, like Derry, is giving Jake the Heebie Jeebies. Something is wrong, and he senses it. Finally the place becomes intolerable and he heads out to find a good place to bide his time since Oswald is still in the USSR. This he does, in a town called Jodie. 
Once a teacher, always a teacher, Jake gets in at the high school and becomes integral. I can foresee problems with this, but Jake/George is ignoring them, or hasn't figured out how he might be adding to the butterfly effect. 
King again ropes us in at the end of this section with mysterious links to the Yellow/Orange Card Man, and I can feel my heart rate accelerate just a bit. Nicely played, Mr. King. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

11/22/63 Stephen King - Part 2 The Janitor's Father

Our man Jake has gone through the wormhole after making the decision to save Hoptoad Harry's family.  Harry is from Derry, and after procuring the coolest car imaginable - a Sunliner - Jake makes his way to Derry.  He finds it to be an unhappy place - a place that has something "wrong" with it.  There have been murders of children, and he meets two teen who seem to think the "bad times" are over.  We know better, of course.

King is foreshadowing something evil.  Al refers to him as the Yellow Card Man, but when Jake goes through the second time, he's the Orange Card Man.  Something has changed.

Jake (as George in the past) find out everything he can, because he failed to do some research on Harry's father before he left.  He talks to a whole lot of people, and we know he cannot succeed, because we've found out that the past resists change.

At the end of this section, we're starting to think that Jake/George might just prefer the past.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

11/22/63 Stephen King - Part 1 Watershed Moment

This is the set-up. Get the reader to buy in to your fantasy, which King does with ease and aplomb. Our man Jake Epping is going back to save the world, before JFK is assassinated and the civil rights battle spirals out of control. Jake has nothing to lose; if it doesn't work out there's a reset. How convenient is that? 
Because of the reset feature, and the fact that his mentor, diner owner Al, is dying of cancer, and quickly, I am wondering all kinds of things. King has never used easy or pat, so the convenience of the reset is probably going to be a problem. The cancer is another story. Apparently Al, has been going back through history for quite a while. Vacationing and fishing, eating, drinking, and making money. Some people get untreatable cancer.  Is it just a device to put our man up against the past, or does the past cause cancer? Remains to be seen. 
King has suckered me before, led me down paths with which I thought I was familiar, and then pushed me into an icy river with a strong current and lots of jagged rocks. I'm wearing some protection this time.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

11/22/63 by Stephen King

This will have to be a two-post review.  I decided (finally) that since it is November, I will read this novel I've been staring at on my bookshelf for quite a while now.  It's a good solid read, King will grip me and make me want to read his tale much too far into the night, and I will awaken bleary-eyed with the book in the bed next to me.  Then I will attempt to avoid all of life's realities in order to get my eyeballs back on the page.

King begins (as he is wont to do) benignly enough.  We have a school teacher grading papers at the end of the semester.  Before long, however, we are stepping into the abyss right along with said teacher, and the title is a subtle tease (I avoid reading book-flaps, so I don't know much about the how yet) that gets me thinking about how King is going to bring me around to that terrible day in 1963.  Time travel.  It's the only way.

I'm sorry that I cannot report (well, not really sorry) where I was that day, as I was not born yet.  However, my older sister came home from school to tell my mother what happened, my mother, who never watched television or listened to the radio during the day, she was strictly an album aficionado.  Truly, my sister probably had to turn down the HiFi to be heard.  Of course, my mother did not believe her.  An eight year old in New York, what could she know of presidents and shootings in Texas?

My parents loved the musical Camelot and listened to the soundtrack quite a lot.  When I heard that JFK's administration was described as Camelot, I understood how loved a president he was, how the Kennedy family was the closest thing to royalty the US had, and it didn't much matter if you were an Elephant or a Donkey, Jack and Jackie were IT.

As for Stephen King's ideas, I don't know yet.  I can only surmise that he was as enamored as the rest of the nation, and the world.  All those young people did not join the Peace Corps for a president they did not love.  Ask not, he said to them - Ask not what your country can do for you.  And they stepped right up to his challenge.

I'm going to try really hard to savor this novel.  Since I'm doing some traveling soon, I'll have two good chunks of reading time, and my goal is to keep myself from swallowing the book whole (as I am wont to do).  Wish me luck.