31 December 2007
Quit being apathetic, scared, nervous, shy, disillusioned, indifferent, irresponsible, lazy, or whatever your reason is for not caucusing on the 3rd if you are an Iowa resident. You live in the number one state when it comes to choosing our next presidential candidate. In what other situation can you say that our state has the first and most influential say in our entire nation about anything? You don't have to be a political wonk or a governmental policy expert to show your support. Pick a candidate on their platform, their ideals, their experience, their name or their tie.
After a brief pause, Obama talked about his childhood:
"I would say the fact that I grew up without a father in the home. What that meant was, I had to learn very early on to figure out what was important and what wasn't and exercise my own judgment, in some ways to raise myself. I mean, my mother was wonderful, and was a foundation of love for me. But as a young man growing up, I didn't have a lot of role models, and I made a lot of mistakes. But I learned to figure out that there were certain values that were important to me, that I had to be true to. Nobody was going to force me to be honest. Nobody was going to force me to work hard. Nobody was going to force me to have drive and ambition. Nobody was going to force me to have empathy for other people. But if I really thought those values were important, then I had to live them out...That's why it's so important for me now, both as a United States senator, as presidential candidate, but also as a father and a husband to wake up every morning and ask myself am I living up to those values that I say I think are important. Because if I'm not, I shouldn't be president."
As far as familiar names on the Gold, Silver or Bronze lists, Nishna Valley, South Page and Oakland all made the bronze list. The usual suspects in Chicago made the top of the list, Northside College Prep, Payton, Young and Lincoln Park all were Gold medal schools.
I haven't had a chance to read the pieces on the Boston MATCH school or the school in Texas, but they look very interesting. I like reading about the unique and varied strategies some of the top schools in disadvantaged areas use to help their students reach amazing heights.
30 December 2007
28 December 2007
1. When Courage Was Stronger Than Fear by Peter Hellman
Remarkable Stories of Christians Who Saved Jews from the Holocaust.
Five accounts of true selfless heroism.
2. Maus: My Father Bleeds History, Here My Troubles Began by Art Spielgelman
My first ever graphic novel and it was amazing. There is so much written into the illustrations. The incredible Pulitzer Prize winning story of the father relating his WWII & Auschwitz experience as well as the relationship between the father and the son.
3. To End a War by Richard Holbrooke
One of my Bosnian themed readings over the summer. A great inside look at the difficulties & dynamics of international diplomacy.
4. The Apprentice by Jacques Pepin (audiobook)
My Life in the Kitchen.
This was such a fun autobiography to listen to. It was one of the highlights of my trip to Chicago with homebase.
5. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
One of only two pieces of fiction on my list, and another Pulitzer Prize winner. This was very enjoyable. I watched it on a recommendation from Connie and after watching "The Namesake", which was based on another one of her books.
6. Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Unis
Micro-lending and the Battle Against World Poverty.
A great documentation of how small ideas can have massive impact.
7. Augusta, Gone by Martha Tod Dudman
Whew. This is a rough one. I was riveted reading this mom's story of the endless battle with her daughter.
8. Paddy on the Hardwood by Rus Bradburd
A journey in Irish Hoops.
This was a very fun story of a coach who ends up coaching a semi-pro team in Ireland and his challenges in getting things going as well as his own exploits in learning to play the fiddle.
9. Redemption by Leon Uris
The sequel to "Trinity". It was good, but it spent a lot of time retelling the storyline from "Trinity". Still very fun.
10. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time.
Pretty incredible, the devotion, determination and single-mindedness of this guy. And I was able to see him speak too!
11. Witness to Genocide by Roy Gutman
The First Inside Account of Ethnic Cleansing in Bosnia
Pulitzer Prize winning documenting that help break the news of the atrocities in Bosnia.
12. Zlata's Diary by Zlata Filipovic
A Child's Life in Wartime Sarajevo
It's so interesting to read a young teen's account of extraordinary circumstances. Not as spellbinding as Anne Frank's Diary, but still very good.
13. Heat by Bill Buford
An Amateur's Adventure as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-maker and Apprentice to a Dante-quoting Butcher in Tuscany.
Lots of fun and I learned some things too! A great look at the dynamic of a kitchen and also lots of interesting stuff about Italy, Italian food, pasta-making, Mario Batali, and butchers.
14. The Freedom Writers' Diary by Erin Gruwell
How a Teacher and 150 Teens used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them.
A good motivator and 'feel-good' teaching story. Some very exciting, original, powerful lesson/teaching ideas. We read it in our advisory/home room when I was student teaching.
15. Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner
Another one read aloud to homeroom. The movie is very good, but there is SO much more in the book!
I also had a couple fun re-reads of some of my favorites, Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea and Leon Uris' Trinity.
I only got halfway through The Worldly Philosophers, but I'd like to get back to it at some point. And I've started four different books right now and they all are great!
26 December 2007
25 December 2007
My thoughts are...I don't have problems with students doing a quick check of messages or even sending one quick message. Texting is simply part of that generation's socializing and communication. The students that actually want to do well in the class or that might contribute to discussion are the ones that also know to keep their cell usage to a manageable minimum. The ones that don't are usually the same ones that wouldn't be participating much anyways.
My favorite part of the article is the part where it, rightly, states that part of the problem might be unengaging, boring lessons. Notice that the professor's reply talks about the 'subject matter' being relatively boring, not his lessons or his teaching. :)
"Naturally, there will be many students and no small number of high-tech and progressive-ed apologists ready to lay the blame on boring lessons. One of the great condemnations in education jargon these days, after all, is the “teacher-centered lesson.”
"I’m so tired of that excuse. The idea that subject matter is boring is truly relative. Boring as opposed to what? Buying shoes on eBay? The fact is, we’re not here to entertain. We’re here to stimulate the life of the mind. Education requires contemplation. It requires critical thinking.""
I read this post on the Fischbowl blog and thought she did a good job of touching on a lot of the same concerns & feelings regarding this issue that I have. It's a good blog that I check periodically.
I say, "Way to go, Chicago!" and the suburb communities should follow suit. Better grab your Nalgene!
24 December 2007
22 December 2007
So, here's what I would call my top CD's of the year:
- M.I.A. - Kala
- I love this CD. There's only one track I don't care for. The sounds are so global, the lyrics so worldly, economic, political and socially aware. The artist is gorgeous. I didn't think it would be possible to match how much I loved her first CD, "Arular", but she did it!
- Favorite tracks: Paper Planes, $20, Jimmy, Boyz, Come Around, The Turn
- Again, I wasn't sure if, after all the anticipation, that this CD could live up to how much I love their last CD, "So Jealous." I don't think this one has the two or three songs that really stand out like "So Jealous" did, but this one might actually be a better body of work.
- Favorite tracks: The Con, Like O Like H, Back in Your Head, Hop a Plane
- I actually like this one better than "Chutes Too Narrow". I can put it on and not have a bad moment of listening until it starts to repeat. So mellow & lush and great lyrics too.
- Favorite tracks: Phantom Limb, Red Rabbits, Turn On Me, Sea Legs
- Yes, I was drawn to her by 'Rehab' but after listening to the rest of this album, I'm not sure that is even the best track! This girl has had her share of personal challenges this year too, but you've got to enjoy this CD as great work, regardless.
- Favorite tracks: Tears Dry On Their Own, You Know I'm No Good, Rehab
- Another young Brit female chanteuse that I got introduced to this year. A good counter to Winehouse's bluesy, soulful songs, Lily Allen is bright, fun and upbeat. I love her style too, couture dresses matched with Nike trainers. Very nice.
- Favorite tracks: LDN, Smile, Knock 'Em Out
- Here's one that didn't quite fill the big shoes of its previous CD's success. I listened to "Songs About Jane" pretty much non-stop when I was in Chicago. There are some very good ones on this new CD, but overall the album didn't connect with me like the last one.
- Favorite tracks: Wake-up Call, Not Falling Apart, Nothing Lasts Forever
- There was no way this one could match "Get Behind Me Satan". I voted that one as my top CD two years ago. This one just didn't have the non-stop quality like 'Satan'.
- Favorite tracks: Rag & Bone, Icky Thump, Conquest
Instead of compiling a whole list of top singles, I'll just add these to the ones listed above:
- Shipping Up to Boston - Dropkick Murphy's
- Low - Flo Rida
- Music is My Hot, Hot Sex - CSS
- Snape vs. Snape - Ministry of Magic
- Umbrella - Rihianna & Jay Z
- Bubbly - Colbie Caillat
- Stronger - Kanye West
- Cupid's Chokehold - Gym Class Heros
- Hey There Delilah - Plain White T's
- Crank That - Soulja Boy
- Gunpowder & Lead - Miranda Lambert
21 December 2007
20 December 2007
I sat there and enjoyed the glow of relief and happiness yesterday after school got out. There were a few points in there when I wasn't sure if I'd make it to break or not, but here I am! It was a fun and productive day yesterday. It was a day to work on making up missing assignments and the kids did a good job with it. I had one girl, who I've been pestering about her missing work (she hadn't turned much in at all) walk in to class and hand me eleven chapters worth of work. I was shocked and thrilled. I told her that was a great present for me. I know many teachers don't allow late work and would have given up on that girl by this point, but whatever...it's my first year. I'm learning what works for me. And we're encourage to 'not let them fail', and to continually dog them and fight for them, so I figure that's what I'm doing. Oh, and I got a plate of homemade cookies, some homemade jam and a little bag of chocolates. I love the holidays!
18 December 2007
I'll have to look into this one more when I get a minute.
They mention that they don't have a big drug problem and I'm left wondering, if your drug problem isn't pervasive and very harmful, isn't there a better use of those thousands of dollars? I agree that it is important for us to guide our students (as much as we can) to make good choices about drugs and alcohol, but when I thought about my school doing this, I know that we could spend the necessary $65,000 in more productive ways.
My favorite line, "A student who fails two tests in a school year would be asked to withdraw from the school..." and enroll in public school. :)
16 December 2007
Mr. Krugman delivered a good talk lasting just under an hour (thank goodness, since I had told my students that he wouldn't talk more than an hour). He talked a lot about some negative trends he sees in our country and government, focusing a lot on the need for universal health care and the growing inequality of wealth. I was happy that he mentioned a lot of the topics we've covered this semester in my classroom, hopefully the students caught some of that. I also said I would give additional extra credit if they asked a question during the Q&A session. I had three students get called on to ask their questions and I was happy to see that all three stood up, spoke up and delivered their question well. While they weren't deep economic questions ("Are you going to write another book?" "What was your motivation to write your book?" and "Among the Democratic candidates, who do you think has the best health care plan?") I think they were just fine and I was proud of them. There were enough people asking about the housing crisis, Bernanke's actions and the value of the dollar. I think he probably enjoyed a little variety in the questions. Each of them, after asking their question, turned and made eye contact with me & I flashed them each a thumbs-up.
Another teacher from my school down there, one that I really admire and respect and she came up to me afterwards and very excitedly asked how many students I had down there. After I told her, she said, "Aren't you just so thrilled?" I couldn't keep the smile off my face and I replied, "Yep! It's probably the best moment of my first semester."
15 December 2007
Round three of middleson vs the mice has begun. I began aware of an added presence in our apartment a week or so ago and, as usual, I did not harbor any ill-will until last night. I saw that one of my bags of granola had been compromised and I was not pleased. I am a firm believer in everyone pulling their own weight. I've been able to put together a pretty firm idea of their traffic pattern since I often see them as I'm sitting and doing work. My stationary pose must fool them. So, this morning I picked up a set of traps and they are now locked loaded, two with peanut butter and two with cheese. I went exclusively with the standard trap, after the debacle we had last year. Maybe I should've used scotcheroo's since they were so successful two years ago. Now we wait, and listen for the crack...
14 December 2007
That is one way to view it. And that's how we usually process this type of news story. This type of things seems to just keep coming...Virginia Tech in April, Las Vegas on Tuesday, LSU yesterday. But there's so much more to it, as I'm sure there is to the previous seven homicides here. What if the victim is the same age as all your students? What about if some of your students had known the victim since childhood (What's that even mean? They don't seem that far from childhood right now!) What do you say to that? They don't teach grief/tragedy counseling in education classes. I need to work on handling these situations better, doing more, helping more.
Besides all that, I'm looking forward to sleeping in (well, at least til 7:30 or 8), seeing family, cooking, enjoying wonderful food and treats, shopping, taking pictures, listening to music, checking out some movies on Christmas Day, seeing high school friends, going to Christmas mass.
11 December 2007
Some of you may remember the difficulties, and ensuing enjoyment I got out of the amaryllis homebase got me last year. This year, I received a white one and it was making great progress. There was one area of concern, though, and that was that the plant, despite having grown a good foot and a half or so, had not put out a main shoot. It was only leaves. So that was a bit curious. And then I came into the kitchen this morning and saw that the leaves had just flopped over. They just kinda gave up. So I had to resort to taping up my plant for the second year in a row. It turns out that the amaryllis that homebase was growing was pulling the same sort of tricks and she has exchanged it for a new one. Hopefully mine will step up, otherwise it might be getting exchanged over Christmas as well!
I've never been one to let a snow day or early out restrict my travel plans; in high school when we got out early due to snow or ice, we always took that to mean we should head to Shen and get movies and food. So, in keeping with that tradition, I'm off to seek out some food and some groceries.
10 December 2007
He has some other interesting posts if you care to check out his other blogs or his photography website.
09 December 2007
07 December 2007
04 December 2007
02 December 2007
As forecasted, we got hit by a bit of an ice storm on Saturday. Since it was Educator Discount day at Barnes & Noble, I was not to be deterred, so I thawed and scraped the sheet of ice off my car, and slowly made my way to the mall. I was very glad I did because once I got there, the place was practically empty, which never happens on a weekend. I browsed around and collected a stack of books and then took a seat in the cafe, accompanied by a cinnamon scone and a chai. One of the books I picked up was "Maus: A Survivor's Tale" by Art Spiegelman. I had seen this book before and thought it looked very interesting. It is a graphic novel that tells the story of the author's father, the build up to WWII, the Nazi occupation of Poland, and surviving Auschwitz. A substory that gets told is the relationship between the father & the son, as the son is having the story retold to him. I don't read graphic novels, but this one was very good. It won a Pulitizer Prize in 1992. The black & white drawings are interesting and provide an added richness & depth to the storyline. The Jews are drawn as mice, the Nazis are cats, Poles as pigs, and Americans as dogs. I read the entire first volume (My Father Bleeds History) in about an hour and now I can't wait to go get the other volume (And Here My Troubles Began) from the library. And if you are a teacher you can check out this site for teaching tips and discussion questions.