Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What I'm Reading

Peter Pan- I'm only on the third or fourth chapter, but that book is deliciously messed up. It is absolutely not a children's book. It is a young adult book. It's one of the books my students are reading for their classics units and I am having a blast talking about it with them. The highlight of my week was when one of my0 students read aloud to me the scene where Tink encourages the Lost Boys to shoot Wendy. I'll include that excerpt at the end of this post. I also love the part where Peter thinks a kiss is a thimble. "Peter thimbled her..." I fell over laughing, literally, when another of my students read it to me!

I'm also reading an awesome teaching book. Only read this if you are a reading/writing teacher (of any grade). It is a fabulous framework for the teaching of reading and writing in a nurturing way. It's called The Complete 4 for Literacy because author Pam Allyn advocates a balance of focus on genre, conventions, process, and strategy. I have the privilege of being on a team that's writing units for my district, as we are switching from the model where the whole class reads one book together to a model where the kids are reading books (or any text) at their just right level. We are using this book, which gives great advice for how to write units of study with very focused objectives but lots of time for kids to read and write at their independent level. I love that it builds in time for conferencing with students as well as small group instruction. It's just a good, healthy model.

I am also reading Mary Poppins, which, like Peter Pan, is also not really a young kid's book! Mary Poppins is actually super mean- the opposite of the sweet character Julie Andrews plays in the movie. "I hate her!" one of my students said yesterday as we looked at a part where she threatens the kids, or tells them to be quiet, or mocks them.... which she does constantly! I absolutely love how mean she is, but my students don't see how it's funny. Oh well. She's like, viciously mean and shows the kids no kindness. It's insane.

A couple of New York Times articles that I've read over the last couple of weeks have stuck with me.

One I won't link to because it's about the Cheshire CT triple murder case of a woman and her two daughters, and it is very, very disturbing. Don't read about it. It's awful. The dad survived the attack and recently one of the killers was sentenced to die. The article I found interesting was about how the jury, after they delivered the verdict, asked the judge if they could speak privately to the father. They all cried and hugged him. Many other lines in the article stuck with me. One jury member told the reporter that although he did not believe in the death penalty, he felt that if any case necessitated one, this was it, and so he applied the law. Another one said she wished she could take away the pain and fear that the daughters had to go through in their last hours. They were very human comments, not clinical legal ones. These jurors felt how I would feel, and we don't always get that inside window on a trial.
The article really showed how the people seemed to connect and care for each other both during and after the trial. After the verdict, the judge thanked the jury for their service and said they'd seen things that no person should ever have to see. He didn't have to say that, and that to me shows a degree of care. The reporter ended the article with the comment that clearly amazed him the most. When the jurors met with the dad and family, the grandma told the jury she was sorry they'd had to put them through that. This reporter was clearly struck by the people in this case, and his article got that across to me.

On a lighter note, I enjoyed the article about the Chilean miner who ran the New York City marathon after being stuck underground for 10 weeks. I'll link to that.

Here's the part from Chapter 5 of Peter Pan where Tink encourages the boys to shoot Wendy. The dialogue is ridiculous. I have always loved the absurd.

Now Nibs rose from the ground, and the others thought that his staring eyes still saw the wolves. But it was not wolves he saw.

"I have seen a wonderfuller thing," he cried, as they gathered round him eagerly. "A great white bird. It is flying this way."

"What kind of a bird, do you think?"

"I don't know," Nibs said, awestruck, "but it looks so weary, and as it flies it moans, `Poor Wendy,'"

"Poor Wendy?"

"I remember," said Slightly instantly, "there are birds called Wendies."

"See, it comes!" cried Curly, pointing to Wendy in the heavens.

Wendy was now almost overhead, and they could hear her plaintive cry. But more distinct came the shrill voice of Tinker Bell. The jealous fairy had now cast off all disguise of friendship, and was darting at her victim from every direction, pinching savagely each time she touched.

"Hullo, Tink," cried the wondering boys.

Tink's reply rang out: "Peter wants you to shoot the Wendy."

It was not in their nature to question when Peter ordered. "Let us do what Peter wishes!" cried the simple boys. "Quick, bows and arrows!"

All but Tootles popped down their trees. He had a bow and arrow with him, and Tink noted it, and rubbed her little hands.

"Quick, Tootles, quick," she screamed. "Peter will be so pleased."

Tootles excitedly fitted the arrow to his bow. "Out of the way, Tink," he shouted, and then he fired, and Wendy fluttered to the ground with an arrow in her breast.

And the chapter ends right there. Hilarious! Insane! How on earth is this a children's book???

Here's a link to Chapter 6, and you can read the whole book online if you want.
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Age

Me to kid who has bossed a classmate around: "Do not boss him around. When you're 35 like me, then you can tell an 11 year old what to do."

Murmurs of shock and horror flow throughout the room. "Thirty-five? Oh my gosh."

A few of them murmur kindly, "You don't look thirty-five," and then, because I'm totally ignoring their comments and moving on, one of my most helpful students shouts, "You don't look your age!" just so he can make sure I'm not offended.

I brush my hair back from my face and say, "I know."

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