Saturday, January 31, 2009


Author: Neil Gaiman
Rating 3/5

"When Coraline steps through a door to find another house stangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous. But there's another mother there, and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go."

This was the second book I've read by Neil Gaiman. Like Good Omens it is not an ordinary story. The mirror world is dark and twisted making Tim Burton the perfect person to put together the recently released movie version of this story. As I was reading it, it reminded me of many of his films.

Despite the originality, I did not really connect with these characters. I enjoyed the cat. Given the personalities of most cats, this character could have been and done so much more. The other mother caught my interest for a brief period, but when she and the other world began to take on abstact forms my interest faded and collapsed like the structures and places in the other world. Overall, this book was okay. It was able to get my attention (which is sometimes a major feat) but couldn't keep it.

I read this for Dewey's Challenge and 20 in 2009. Click here for Dewey's Review. Books completed for all challenges are shown in the sidebar under the button for the challenge.

More Random Thoughts

For the first 28 days of this year, my feet have felt firmly planted on the ground and my head above the clouds. That ended on Friday. I was clearly weighed down by all the demands and obstacles of reality. We had the writing prompt on Thursday, an assembly on Friday, and there's MAPS testing on Monday. I hope, despite the interruptions, I can get through the pacing guide standards in time for the next benchmark test.

In today's local newspaper, there was an article about recent local Chinese New Year celebrations. This is the year of the ox. Oxen represent...You guessed it...WORK. It is followed by the year of the tiger, victory. I did not know this before. It confirms my feelings about this year, and gives me hope for a reward when the work is done.


I am watching Under the Tuscan Sun and thinking about who our real BFF's are. They are not the ones that commiserate with us when relationships, businesses, or dreams die. They are the ones who who go beyond this and encourage and stand by us when we jump back in the fray. If we are reluctant to jump back in they take us by the hand and lead us there. They also accept our definition of love and opportunity without trying to impose their own.

The problem with the commiserating friends is often it is a misery loves company situation, and you can spend decades meeting with the girls (wondering where the men are). In today's busy world, people can't always get that involved in one anothers lives. After decades of commiserating, I thank God for the friends who made the time. Thanks A for helping me remember the good times with Charles. You are right, it wasn't all bad. Thanks AL, VW, and MY for giving me the strength to move on after all those years and accepting that what makes me happy is the best thing for me. Thanks DH for reminding me about the patient, loving, reasonable qualities of God. Happy is not a sin. Happy is okay, better than is good.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Random Thoughts

Today we had our district writing prompt. My students surprised, pleased, and disappointed me in that heart-tugging way that only children are able to. Thankfully, the forced march is over. (Some of them still couldn't believe that would not be able work on this over a period of days. What happened to the writing process I'm always preaching about?)

M. really threw himself into his work. He even asked to work in an isolated area to prevent distraction. He was focused and on task during the entire time he was working on the prompt. Bear in mind, this is a child who has difficulty staying on task for more the four minutes, but he was focused and working for an hour and forty-six minutes (with only a ten minute break between periods). I complemented his on his attention to the task at hand but didn't get a chance to read his essay. I'm going in early tomorrow to grade some assignments and read some of their assessment work. I'll definitely be looking for his paper.

The social studies department had a meeting yesterday. The department chair kept the meeting brief and redundant (not a typo). We all noticed that two teachers did not show up. Come to think of it, these two usually miss half of any department meeting (language arts or social studies) or don't show up at all. Well, today, one of them felt she had some great idea. She sent out an email requesting the entire department, the principal, and the assistant principal to come to her room for a brief meeting. After school, an announcement was made for all social studies teachers to report to her room. Couldn't this have been shared yesterday? Couldn't it be put on the agenda for the next meeting. Was this a mandatory meeting? Who has the authority to call a mandatory meeting? I got a bug up my butt, found this troubling because I attended the meeting yesterday! I fumed about the fact that someone, who missed the first meeting, could ask me to attend another one! I didn't go. I wonder if anyone noticed.

For dinner, I bought a spicy tuna sushi pack from the grocery store and washed it down with a glass of white wine. I know made-to-order sushi is more appealing, but as usual, wasabi cleared my head and wine made everything seem better.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Just for Fun

I saw this on ms_teacher's blog and couldn't resist. Settle down fellas, read the whole thing before you get excited about the title :)

This one is just for fun, but parts of it are so true. All the positive stuff sound like me (or at least the me I want to be). As far as the negative stuff goes, my dark side only comes out when I am antagonized, and I'm more passive aggressive than manipulative. Yes, I know it's still bad. Let's just say I am working on it,'s a process.

What type of Fae are you?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What's Wrong with Education?

Everyone thinks they have the answer to this question. Teacher incompetence. Lack of funding. Poorly written curriculum. I think it's something else.

Our first day back from winter break was a teacher work day. Following the district pacing guide, we should have been in the second of a five week unit on persuasion. With the first week of this unit being right before a three week holiday break I like to spend the the first day back reinforcing classroom rules and procedures (especially helpful to the four new students that were placed in my class that day) and then move into reading and analyzing another example persuasive writing before we jump head long into the deep end (process) of writing. I wanted to confirm how much time I had, so I called the language arts department chair to confirm date for the district writing assessment which is usually in early February. The department chair didn't see the writing assessment anywhere on the calendar (I hadn't found it either). When I got to work the next day, there was an email stating that the assessment would be given January 21st. With only four days for instruction, a national holiday, and the inauguration the day before the prompt, my plans had to be changed. I was able to incorporate the inaugural speech into my instruction on persuasion, but the saga continued. By Friday, the date was changed to the 29th to give everyone more instructional time. This meant more plan tweaking.

I recently found out that they were so busy adding new hoops assessments to the calendar that they forgot to include some of the old ones. It would have been nice to start the new semester on sure footing.

Friday, January 23, 2009

These Books Were Made for Walking

No, this is not what you think it is (another challenge); it's a meme. This one shouldn't be any trouble because it ties in with my goal to post about literature. The only change I will have to make it the day of the week that literature posts will be made. Lit will move from Saturdays to Wednesdays, and truthfully all that means is that nothing changes - the bottom line is I post when I can, but eventually I get my literary, educational, and personal posting done each week.

Anyway, here are the rules: Every third Wednesday of the month blog about books and travel. There will be a theme posted each month at Strumpet's Life

For this week, the theme is the beach. What book do you associate with the beach and why? The book that I associate with the beach is Dear John by Nicholas Sparks. The book itself was just okay. Nicholas Sparks is not my preferred fare, but I appreciated the unhappy ending. Love is not always kind or happy. Picking who we will love and how things will turn out are things we don't have absolute control over. I also appreciated the youthful idealism of Savannah and her firends.

The book reminds me of the beach because of the beach scenes between John and Savannah. Some of the heaviest moments in their relationship take place during these scenes. This reminds me of college trips to the beach. I remember one trip, during my freshman year, to La Jolla. Romance, dorm gossip, professor bashing, and politics. We felt we could solve all of the worlds woes armed with youth and the depth of our convictions. The rolling sound of the ocean, the salty air, and the warmth of the fire have permanently etched this memory into my memories of college.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

One of Those Moments

Today was such a moment in time for me, my students, and the nation that I am still processing it. Once I've had a chance to process it all, I will post my reflections about this moment in history.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

No Nap Needed

Energy begets energy! As I settled in for a nap this afternoon, I realized I had not felt the need for one all week. I credit this fact to my new volunteer work, on Tuesday and Thursday, and a surprisingly drama free outing with my mother on Wednesday. After work, I used the energy I had doing things that were recharging and enjoyable. I did not spended the time continuing to work. That makes a difference. I have a mountain of papers to grade this weekend, but I have the three day weekend to get through it.

What comes next is finding a way to use my time in a balanced, effective way.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

2009 Mini-Challenge

Mini-Challenge #9: Promote literacy. This is wide open - use your imagination. You could give a child a book, or read a book to someone who cannot read, or volunteer at an event which promotes literacy, or donate to your local library, or write something on your blog with a link to a group which promotes literacy, or anything in between. The only rule with this one is that you must PROMOTE literacy in some way…

Okay, here's my first post for the 2009 Mini-Challenge:

I started volunteering at one of our local libraries last Thursday. It's something I have wanted to do for years, but I just never got around to it. I told my father about considering doing this, and he suggested that it is also a great way to get first dibs on new books that come into the library. So far, I have typed labels, labeled and stamped books, shelved books, and met some wonderful people. I love it! I just do three to four hours a week and so far it is manageable. If you ever feel unneeded or unwanted, volunteer at your local library. They are desperate for the help and constantly tell you how much they appreciate you. The thrill of being able to answer a patrons questions or help them find something is beyond description!

By the way, today I was shelving a copy of For Eceryone from Beginner to Pro: Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual. I checked it out before I left. Who knows, it may help with that appearance resolution I made :P

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Back to Work

This our first week of school since the holidays. It struck me, during a staff meeting, that it doesn't take long to lose the restful, optimistic attitude developed during a two or three week break. During the third week, I was looking forward to returning to the classroom. The stress and surprises begin immediately. Monday was a teacher workday. Students returned yesterday. By day three, I still feel it was time to get back to work, but I am looking forward to the weekend.

M. refused to do any work on Tuesday and chose to disrupt the class instead. He had a better day today. I'm sure he's also looking forward to the weekend and feeling slightly relieved to be back at school.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The "W" Word

Each year has a different tone. There are some years filled with questions, some reveal many answers, and some contain a plethora of possibilities. 2008 began as a year of action, but quickly proved to be a year of possibilities. I discovered there are many wonderful parts of my life and vocation that I am overlooking. This year is going to be a year of W***. That is not a bad thing. I have found that to bring the possibilities and potential in my life into fruition requires more w*** than I sometimes put forth. When you think about it, I guess this is the year of sustained purposeful action. That sounds much better than the W-O-R-K.

Okay, this is the last challenge I am joined during the first week of this year. I couldn't resist because it included many things that I was planning to do. It's hosted by caribousmom. Click here to see her post regarding this challenge.

Here's how it goes:

Complete all 12 mini-challenges between January 1st and December 31st, 2009.
Challenges can be completed in any order.
Overlaps are allowed.
IF you are a member of the Yahoo group, you do not need a blog to participate. IF you are NOT a member of the Yahoo group, you will need a blog.

Here are the 12 challenges:

1. Read a collection of short stories and either blog about it, OR tell the group about what you read.

2. Read a play. Blog about it, OR tell the group about your experience.

3. Read a nonfiction book; write a review on your blog or post it to the group.

4. Read 2 essays from the same collection; write a review on your blog or tell the group about what you read.

5. Go to a book event; blog about it or tell the group about it.

6. Borrow a library book, read it and review it on your blog (or tell the group about it).

7. Read a book by a new to you author. Do a little research on the author…do they have a blog? How many books have they written? Have they won any prizes? Where do they live? etc… Blog about the book you read and the author OR tell the group about them.

8. Make a donation. You can either donate to an organization that supports reading OR make a physical donation of a book (or books) to ANYONE. Blog about it or tell the group what you did.

9. Promote literacy. This is wide open - use your imagination. You could give a child a book, or read a book to someone who cannot read, or volunteer at an event which promotes literacy, or donate to your local library, or write something on your blog with a link to a group which promotes literacy, or anything in between. The only rule with this one is that you must PROMOTE literacy in some way…

10. Participate in a buddy read or Group discussion. This can be a face to face group, an on-line group or a one on one discussion with a friend who read the same book. Either way, blog about your experience or share with the group. Did the discussion give you greater appreciation or insight into what you read?

11. Read a book outside your comfort level or from a genre you don’t normally read. Blog about it, or tell the group about it.

12. Read a classic (defined as anything published before 1970). Tell us why it fits the category of being a classic. Write a review or tell the group about the book.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Developing as a Writer and a Person

As promised, today’s post is about my life as an educator. School resumes on Monday, but there is one student who has been on my mind quite a bit during the break. M has had a rough time, especially this year, but he’s a fighter…literally. When he transferred into my class, his previous teacher apologized every time she saw me in passing…for two weeks. His math/science has demanded he be removed from his classes, but I fought to keep M in my classroom. I kept him because he has potential. He has only turned in a few assignments, is frequently disruptive, and has little respect for authority. Yet, I look at him and see potential. During the last writing assignment the class completed, he took a leadership role and helped other students format their papers on the computer. His paper is one of the few in which I see a writer who is getting better at putting ideas, organization, AND voice in his written work.

Before we left for break, M was sent to my room by another teacher. That gave us an opportunity to talk. Once you get past the bravado, M knows that people expect him to make better choices and rise above the circumstances in his life. He feels he has to fight and be disruptive to get be heard. Yes, he is still has lot to work on, but I see potential in M and his writing.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Blog Improvement Project

This is week one of the Blog Improvement Project. This weeks project is goal setting and one of the things that we were asked to look at was the purpose of our blogs. I have stated that the purpose of this blog is to record the things (good or bad) that make up my life. In other words this blog is not just about being an educator, but that is part of it. It is not solely about relationship, adventures, or books, but they are also pieces of the puzzle. I still feel that we all have interesting stories to tell; however I realize it is not an easy thing to tell them with the same emotion with which we experience them.

This year I intend to work on the content and niche of my blog. The purpose of this blog is general and broad which means that without structure the content is all over the place. To get on track I am setting the following goals:

1. Post three time a week (these can be done in advance and scheduled to post on a future date)

2. Schedule a reflective educational post for Wednesdays and post about books every Saturday

3. Interact with other bloggers by participating in challenges, joining groups and forums, and posting comments more often

Friday, January 02, 2009

Welcome 2009!

2008 is in the past along with all the events that were part of it. 2009 has the potential to be much better. These are the things I want to do in order to help myself and this new year live up to our potential:

1. Keep my house cleaner
2. Put more consistent effort into my appearance
3. Write daily (journal, blog, or letters)
4. Give quicker feedback on student's written work
5. Get to church on time

My big goal is to notice more of the "rainbow and butterfly" moments in my life. They are always there, I just need to open my eyes to see them.