Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book Review

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Deb 's  book recommendations, reviews, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I think I am getting acclimated once again to the rhythm of the school day. The clock radio turns at 4:50 am and I am greeted by my local NPR station with the middle of an interview with an author from India, or a with a singer from Africa, or some other fascinating artist from some exotic place. I can't seem to get the alarm set so I can hear the whole of the interview, but that would probably mean having to set the alarm closer to 4:30 and I don't want to do that! My husband and I have a pretty set routine. I go brush my teeth in the downstairs bathroom while he shaves upstairs. Then I go start the coffee, make my lunch, and feed the bird while he showers. Then it's my turn in the shower, and by 5:30 he's half-way through his breakfast, and I'm sitting down at the computer screen with my first cup of coffee. He leaves for work about 5:40 and I read my email and various blogs, do a couple of quick chores, and then have my breakfast. I'm out the door headed toward school by 6:20 most days (though the past week, it's been more like 6:30). I have only a short drive so I'm usually in my classroom by 6:45 which gives me a good 40 minutes of prep except on bus duty days. Then it's nonstop teaching from 7:25 until 12:35. No breaks. I'm fortunate that the restroom is literally across the hall, so I can dart in there between classes. We have a nutty schedule that doesn't include passing time between classes. The kids are scheduled for hour long classes and the next class begins the same time the first one ends. In reality we give them about 3 minutes to make the transition, though this year's group is taking 5 minutes to walk diagonally across a 6 foot hall from one classroom to the next. We're working on transitions! Then it's my uninterrupted lunch for 30 minutes, and planning time. We're back with the kids for the tail end of the day, and then they leave the building at 2:12. I usually have a couple meetings after school every week, and on Mondays and Wed. I work in my classroom til 4:30. Then I head for the next town and the "wellness center" for 45 minutes of water aerobics. On most Tuesdays I leave school at 3:30 and go up to the pool for 30 minutes of laps. I get home on non pool days between 4:30-5 and on pool days anywhere from 5-6:30. Then it's dinner, dishes, chores, and finally I can sit down and relax about 8 pm. Then it's bed by 10 and the whole routine starts up again at 4:45 am.

So, I love days like today.(even after spending almost an hour and half last night creating my sub plans for today.) I am headed to a workshop (Alternative assessments for the state big ticket test) in the small city nearby. I have to be there at 9 am. That means that I got to sleep a little later, and I can actually find some time to blog. I even have a load of laundry going. The end of the day will still be long. Since it's a Wed. I'll meet my husband at 4:30 to head over to the pool for our water aerobics class, and it will be 7 before we sit down to dinner. But for a few short minutes, I can step out of my routine.

That's nice

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Work Interfers With Life!

I am too busy! Despite all my attempts to limit activities, it seems like my days get longer and longer. Of course I do stupid things like deciding to take 1 credit college course on a fantastic literacy program - Picturing Writing. I spent 15 hours in class from Friday night to Saturday night, and I now have some art work to finish, a short story to write,some books to read, and a 3-5 page paper to write. And of course, still find time to teach and plan lessons and grade papers. I had a district committee meeting Monday (the professional development committee of which I am co-chair), an hour long staff meeting today, open house tomorrow night from 6-7:30, sub plans to write for Thursday so I can do "all-staff professional development audits", and a teacher's association executive board meeting on Thursday. Guess who has trouble saying No!

In the midst of all of this, I just finished reading one of the best books I've read all year. Here is my review:

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I think this is the best book I've read this year! I couldn't put it down. Lisa See masterfully shares the story of Lily and Snow Flower, two "same olds" or laotongs who are contracted into a lifetime relationship when they are both seven. It's hard to understand this relationship in our context; you could say it's the ultimate in BFF relationships, but that belittles the reality of the relationship. Lily ultimately mourns the death of Snow Flower more than the death of her husband. The story is set in Hunan China in the 1800's and traces the life stories of both girls from Lily's perspective as a very elderly woman. The Confucian culture is portrayed in great detail as are many practices we consider barbaric --- footbinding in particular. Although these traditions repel us, Lisa See manages to put them in the context of the time. I've also read the author's book Shanghai Girls which also painted a detailed picture of a time and culture in a sympathetic, yet realistic way.

View all my reviews >>

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Book #85

One of my weekend Want-to's accomplished!

A Fatal Thaw (Kate Shugak, Book 2) A Fatal Thaw by Dana Stabenow

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A Fatal Thaw is the 2nd book in the Kate Shugak series. On the first day of spring, in the middle of an Alaskan national park, a man goes on a killing spree, leaving 9 dead Park residents. But he's only responsible for 8 of the murders and it's up to Kate to figure out who killed the 9tn victim. Once again, Dana Stabenow masterfully evokes the Alaskan wilderness as well as the nature of the people who inhabit it.

View all my reviews >>

Midway Through

It's not much past mid-day and I think I have finally finished all the have-to's on the list I made yesterday. I didn't sleep very late (6:30 am) but it's an 1.75 hrs longer than during the school week. I spent the better part of the morning getting the business checkbook balanced, and I finished off the morning with grading papers and analyzing assessment data. I had wanted to make it to church but the timing was off. At the time I had to leave, I was on a roll, and knew that if I interrupted it, I'd lose too much ground. I've compensated by playing some sacred music and plan on heading out to the porch in a few minutes to ponder the lectionary for today.

I also hope to take some time later to pursue a new "addiction." I recently started researching my husband's genealogy. My family tree is well-researched on my maternal side, at least back to 1632 when the earliest members of her family arrived in the New World, and while I'd like to tackle my father's side, most of his records are in Cuba or Spain, not exactly accessible at the moment. My husband's family will be challenging. His father emigrated in 1920 from a Jewish town in what is now the Ukraine. In 1908, when his father was born, the town was in Austria. We have found the passenger manifest that lists his father, grandmother, and an aunt. We've also found at least 2 instances of his grandfather's trips across the Atlantic - once in 1900 and again in 1911. It's really fascinating and addicting. It's a bit like untangling a knotted skein of yarn. You find one end and follow it for a while, and then you get stuck and have to find another way through.

And of course, I want to get back to knitting my Vintage Vest which has been feeling lonely this past week or so. I've been too tired to knit when I've finally had some free time. While it's not a hard pattern, it is lace and I need a focused mind when I knit lace. So, after some quiet time on the porch, I will either research or knit. . . .

Saturday, September 5, 2009

2.7 %

Yesterday in homeroom as I was taking attendance, one of my enterprising 6th graders announced that at the end of the day we would have completed 2.7% of the school year. I guess he was feeling the pressure that comes from being faced with a long period of "enforced labor" too! We've just ended our first week of school. For the first time in just about everyone's memory we had a full 5 days of school for the first week. Traditionally we've started the Wednesday before Labor Day, so we started with a 3 day week, followed by a 4 day week, and finally getting into the swing of things by week 3. So this was a huge adjustment for kids and teachers, though I suspect parents loved it! So far, I really like my new 6th graders. I share 42-45 of them with another teacher. He does the math and social studies while I teach RLA and science. The number isn't certain because it keeps changing. We started with 45, and then several didn't show up because they moved. Then we got a couple of new students, and then a couple of students were withdrawn for home schooling. When we left school last night we had 43. I think. That's one of the things I have to figure out this weekend.

I was totally wiped last night when I got home from school. I threw together a skillet supper: sauted fresh summer squash, red peppers, onions, leftover asparagus, and leftover chicken, had a very refreshing cold adult beverage, and collapsed on the sofa. I woke up about an hour later, and went to bed! This morning I slept late (til 7:30!!). I'm glad we have a 3 day weekend, but I have a ton of work to do. One of the things I hate about the start of school is all the organizing of paperwork and data, and all the "administrative tasks" that have to be done, in addition to the teaching stuff. For example, on the first day of school kids are given a minimum of 9 forms each that have to go home, be filled out by parents, and returned to school. (And I know parents hate this as much as we do!) We teachers collect the forms, check off that each student has returned each form, separate each form into its separate pile, and then alphabetize each pile. We have to send all of these forms daily to the office in alpha order, along with the checkoff sheet, and keep track of who hasn't brought which form in. Then we ourselves receive innumerable forms and multiple page documents that we have to read and sign off on by the end of the first week of school. Our new faculty handbook was given to us on Thursday. It's a 61 page document that we had to read and sign off on by Friday. In addition, for the first 2 weeks of school all of us are required to be on bus duty at 7:15 until the start of homeroom, and again from 2:12 to 2:20, so that eats into the time we have available to get some of these things done. I found myself at my desk at 6:30 am and the earliest I left school this week was 4:45 pm. The kids are there from 7:15 to 2:20. My goal is to avoid quite so many long days as the year goes on. I would really like to be leaving the building by 3:30 at least 2 days a week!

So my plans this weekend include: (And these are all the HAVE-TOs)
Read and comment on 43 journal entries
Set up my final class rosters (we lost 5 students, and gained 3)
Read 10 IEPs and one 504 plan and note necessary modifications
Grade 43 sets of reading comprehension questions
Review data collected from 43 spelling assessments & 43 reading assessments
Set up a new plan book since the ones that were ordered for us don't work
with our master schedule
Plan for a week's worth of science and reading
Balance the business checkbook and enter the payroll for this week

The WANT TOs include:
Reorganize my closet
Go to church
Get together with a friend for a knitting session
Watch my Dark Shadows Netflix disk
Finish a book (A Fatal Thaw by Dana Stabenow)
Find a baby gift pattern to knit
Work on my husband's genealogy
Sleep late
Write a blog entry (which I can cross off my list!)
Obtain growth targets for my reading students from database

We'll see how much of this too-long list gets done. I'm off now to read the journal entries since that feels like the most daunting task right now. I've already done the billing for the business, so that will be two tasks done before lunch!