Sunday, June 19, 2005

A summer game of tag

Hi everyone. Should I reintroduce myself? Things got a little busy and I haven't been blogging. It was certainly not due to a shortage of material. I've got lots of posts written in my mind. The school year is officially over, though it was not the smoothest closing ever. I plan to share the details in a further post. I also took a theology quiz and will have a few things to say about that later too. This upcoming week should probably be pretty busy because I'm taking a class on teaching AP U.S. History.

For now, I'm going to respond to the book meme Hazlenut Reflections tagged me for:

How many books do you own? Probably about 120. I have a habit of selling books on Amazon marketplace if I don't think I will need them later. I also try to check books out at the library if I don't think I'll need them forever. I might add, though, that the dh has a LOT more books. I. mean. a. lot. We have a never ending struggle on what to do with said books which usually ends with me saying "honey, books are NOT a decoration." I digress.

What was the last book you bought? I bought Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation. Sarah Vowell is one of the voices you might hear on NPR's This American Life. She's also the voice of Violet in The Incredibles. But mostly she is a history nerd and that's what's so fun about her. Her book visits shrines and museums honoring three presidents that were assassinated -- Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. It's a great book, although sometimes I feel a little like I'm watching a Michael Moore film because I find myself saying "you're funny and you're right in a lot of ways, but do you have to make your agenda SO obvious sometimes?"

What was the last book you read? Well, that's the same as the above. I am reading a couple of things right now though. One is called American Colonies and is written by Alan Taylor. It would count as the last book I bought except I didn't buy it, I got it at the local library. I've just barely started it, but it seems pretty good so far. Obviously, the main reason for reading it is preparation for next year's class.

What are 5 books that mean a lot to you?:

1. Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren Winner. Winner was raised in the Jewish faith but converted to Christianity. In this book she lays out a few of the things she "misses" about her old Jewish faith. The churches I have been in like to draw such distinctive lines between the Old Law and the New Law, but I think we can learn a lot from the Old Law and that's what she suggests. If you are a Protestant Christian and have ever been to a Jewish wedding and wondered "why don't we have this much fun at our weddings?" you should check out her book. The best idea she puts forth, however, is a Sabbath, which I've been regularly practicing for about 2 years now.

2. Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol. This book chronicles the challenges of inner cities, specifically schools in inner cities. It changed a lot of my political views because you really see a cyclical view of some of America's toughest problems. I still teach in a suburban school, but I closely follow the fates of city schools.

3. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. Obviously this book is about the fast food industry. But it goes beyond the health effects and also discusses the political, economic, and environmental effects of our lazy eating habits. It WILL change how you decide where to get your next meal.

4. Tools for Teaching by Fred Jones. Okay, I didn't read the entire thing. I only read the parts I was most concerned about. This book was given to all new teachers in my district for free at our orientation. Fred Jones isn't really an educational expert, in my opinion. What he did was visit highly successful classrooms and try to enumerate what exactly was successful about them. This is harder than you might think. Most education professors, when asked about behavior and classroom management say "Oh. Classroom managment. It's tough. It's an art AND a science. It just can't be taught. You either have it or you don't." Anyway, Jones tries to define what "it" is and he includes funny cartoons along the way. I recommended to a friend's mother who teaches in another state. She liked it so much her school bought a copy for every teacher and it is the focus of their professional development next year.

5. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. This is just a fun one. It's so hard to explain, I'm going to steal off of the cover of the book:

"Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living happily on the fictional island of Nollop off the coast of South Carolina. Nollop was named after Nevin Nollop, author of the immortal phrase containing all the letters of the alphabet 'The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.'

Now Ella finds herself acting to save her friends, family, and fellow citizens from the encroaching totalitarianism of the island's Council, which has banned the use of certain letters of the alphabet as they fall from a memorial statue of Nevin Nollop. As the letters progressively drop from the statue they also disappear from the novel. The result is both a hilarious and moving story of one girl's fight for freedom of expression and a linguistic tour de force sure to delight word lover's everywhere."

The book is a quick read but deals with some heavy issues like the freedom of speech and (for me at least) the struggle to understand Providence. It's also quite an exercise in vocabulary. High school students that are moderate to strong readers might really enjoy it too.

Happy Father's Day to all you fathers out there!