Sunday, March 28, 2010

Join Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

On Friday evening I watched Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on ABC and was inspired and appalled at the same time. The fact that children in our country never encounter fresh food and are being fed processed crap everyday at school helps us to understand why, as a country, we have so many health problems. The most telling scene of the whole show was when Jamie brings fresh vegetables into a classroom full of young children (kindergarten or first grade perhaps) and none of them have ANY idea what they are.

If you think that our children deserve to eat better at school, go to Jamie's website and sign the petition.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Poetry Friday

Since Easter is in April this year, I have started poetry month a little bit early. Normally National Poetry Month is the entire month of April, but since I'm going to miss out on over a week of instruction in April, I couldn't resist starting early.

Yesterday I played this performance by Taylor Mali to try to get them on my side and lure them into the world of poetry:

They absolutely loved it.

Then I also performed an "edited for content" version of his poem "What Teachers Make" today in class. At this point I can say that they've been lured even more into this intoxicating world of poetry after my treatise on why you need to recite poems that you connect with.

So many kids make the transformation from haters to lovers of poetry in this month. They're like Jack in the book Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. Jack begins his story hating poetry, moves into the understanding phase, and then eventually loves it. So many of my own students go through this same journey. This is the month I look most forward to teaching in the school year.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Stitches by David Small

One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had throat cancer and was expected to die.

Taken from Goodreads

I can't even begin to describe what a gift David Small possesses. To be able to tell his story with such heartbreaking sparseness and visual bleakness, yet make you feel like you have been transported inside the story is no small task.

My heart broke for David: for his family situation and the way he was made to feel worthless by his mother. And despite the hopelessness you feel as you fly through this book (once you pick it up, you won't be able to put it down), you are left, in the end, feeling hopeful for him.
By far one of the best graphic novels I've ever read.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Poetry Friday

This poem is from the beautiful book compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins called Lives: Poems About Famous Americans.

I read this poem to my class last week because Langston Hughes is my favorite poet and I love how accessible this poem is. In fact, it's so accessible, that I was checking journals today and a student wrote in her journal after I read this poem to the class that I had changed her mind - she really does like poetry. I absolutely love when that happens!


He let us kiss
the April rain.

He shared his
and pride

He wrote
of life
with an ebon pen
and the world
was never
the same

He syncopated beats
of Harlem-blues.

The might
of Langston Hughes

“Bring me all your dreams, ”
he said.

And though he died…


-Lee Bennett Hopkins

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. "The days are long, but the years are short," she realized. "Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter." In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.

- Taken from Goodreads

I wasn't really a fan of this one. I like the idea of trying to find ways to fill your life with more happiness, I'm just not one who likes to quantify things, especially something as philosophical as happiness. I don't prefer charts and graphs and lists of strategies. I found Rubin's method incredibly exhausting and all I kept thinking about was how unhappy her method would make me if I attempted to carry it out. I do think that seeking happiness does involve some strategy, I just think Rubin's means of seeking it out was not the way I would go about it.

Don't get me wrong, I think her intentions were good and I admire her attempts, I just found myself having to skip entire sections because her method for going about seeking happiness felt so mundane to me.

What good I did take away from this book was:
1) Trying to find happiness in the mundane. Rather than doing something drastic a la Elizabeth Gilbert and travel the world, Rubin testifies that happiness is in our everyday moments.
2) The attempt to find ways to be more happy was not just for selfish reasons, but also so that she would be more prepared when that bad news wakes her from her sleep one night at 3 a.m.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Peeps in Places

I love photography but I'm not very good at it. Though I certainly appreciate a well shot image and love seeing pictures that display good composition as well as humor. Which is why I absolutely LOVE the idea of the Intelligent Travel Blog's Peeps in Places Contest:

Hmmm... trying to think of something nearby that I could take a picture of with peeps in it. The big tire on I-94?

Yeah. Notsomuch.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Failure is not an option - it's a NECESSITY!

"Some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default."

JK Rowling articulated these wise words at a commencement address on June 5, 2008 at Harvard University. It is worth watching or reading the whole speech because it is brilliant. It is the epitome of what every parent of a child today should desire for their children: to fail.

That's right. I said it. LET YOUR CHILDREN FAIL.

For some reason there is this mentality today, in 2010, that children should always be happy, that they have to excel at everything, and that straight A's are the only acceptable possibility on their report card.

Disappointments in life are necessary to build character as well as learn humility and empathy. Just because parents have the means to provide their children with everything they could ever want doesn't mean THEY SHOULD! Make kids work for something and see what it's like to struggle and agonize. Allow them to get a C on their report card rather than emailing their teacher every time they fail a test. Let them play on a sports team that actually has winners and losers instead of this "everybody wins" mentality. Tell them to get a job if they want to go to Cancun for Spring Break rather than paying for the trip because you think they "earned it." (What I want to know is how you can "earn" a trip to a destination that glorifies binge drinking???) We are developing a nation of children who can't think for themselves and who feel a bombastic sense of entitlement because parents think they're doing right by their kids by giving them everything they want, fighting their battles, and shielding them from disappointment.

Failure lets us see who we really are. It helps us to gain perspective. It makes us truly appreciate the good times rather than always taking them for granted. If I hadn't failed as a music student in college I never would have discovered how much I love writing and literature. If I hadn't struggled and fallen on my face in my first few years of teaching, I never would have come to understand what I really believe in and what I'm willing to fight for in this life.

So what I wish for every child who enters my classroom is for them to fail - at SOMETHING - because that's the only way you learn - about life, about academics, and about how to be a productive member of the human race.

Revision: the hard sell

I just picked this book up from the library today and I absolutely love the cover.

Revision is such a hard concept to sell. Students often think that if they communicated their thoughts and vomited them all out on the page, then their job is done. It's difficult for them to understand why you need to find accurate, precise words and have sentences that flow like music.

This cover is so simple, yet immensely effective at getting the point across - especially if the students understand what the cover phrases are alluding to.

I hope the book is just as delightful as the cover.


For a change of pace, check out this fabulous Dystopian lit giveaway on Lenore's blog.