Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bad Books are All Around Me

Until a few days ago, I was starting to think that nobody knows how to write anymore. Several months ago a student recommended a book to me- one she said was "the best book I've ever read." It's called The Shack. I bought it- after all this one was on the Bestseller List! I read it, and I have to say, I could not believe anything so poorly written could have gotten on anybody's list- except maybe one which I won't mention here! I do understand why a middle school girl might like it because it's one of those saccharine stories that tugs at your heartstrings and dares you to believe that there really might be more out there than what we can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell. The intention of the book is not bad- maybe even admirable, but where was this guy's editor? The sentence structure was atrocious -among other things. I also found some of it offensive. The best example was when the main character was talking to Jesus (yes, Jesus- the Lord- not Jesus, the cute boy in 3rd period class), and he (the man) tells Jesus that he's surprised by his looks. Jesus replies with something like, "OH, it's the NOSE, isn't it- well, you know I'm JEWISH." So let's keep extending those stereotypes, shall we? Maybe it was the author's attempt at humor- I don't know, but it really wasn't funny. I trudged on through this horrible excuse for literature and can't remember when I was so happy to finish something. Interestingly, many teachers at my school read it and loved it. Maybe they could get past the grammar, but I really couldn't. If any of you read it, please let me know what you think.

Next, I picked up a book about a teacher with Tourette's Syndrome. I think it's called The Front of the Class. It's autobiographical, and I was impressed with the author's desire to become a teacher in spite of his Tourette's, but there's something off-putting about an author with the "look how great I am" attitude. He writes about his awards, about how much he loves the kids- which is a good thing if you're a teacher, but there is not one anecdote in the entire story about what he actually does in the classroom that makes him a great teacher. He does mention bean bag chairs and computers, but what about strategies? What about how one gets that reluctant learner interested? What about how much our students teach us? And worst of all, to me, is that he says he's a great teacher, but he wants to become an administrator! Administrators often say that they loved teaching, but they become administrators to make change from the top, and that is such BS! I have only met one administrator in all my years of teaching who really cared about what's best for kids. 99.9% of them become administrators in order to 1. make more money or 2. to gain power or 3. to do both #1 and #2...and that's it.

So where am I going with this? I picked up a book a few days ago called A Private History of Awe, and so far, it is lovely. The writing is magnificent, and the author is not blowing his own horn. He is dealing with an elderly mom and a new granddaughter simultaneously, making observations about each and giving his history as well as our country's history during the 50's and 60's at the same time. This is the kind of writing I want my students to see and to hear- the kind of writing that I hope will help them become better writers themselves. It is so refreshing to have found something worth reading.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Friday the 13th and Valentines' Day!

I've always chosen to believe that there was nothing to all of the hype about FRIDAY the 13th, but today almost made me change my mind. Some of you know that about 3 weeks ago, I fell in front of an oncoming car after leaving a restaurant. Luckily, I didn't get hit, but I did manage to smash my knee up pretty well. After the initial shock though, the knee was fine- or I thought it was anyway.

Then earlier this week, it started hurting and my leg began to swell and turn red. I checked with the substitute school nurse since the real nurse was home with the flu (a lot of good that flu shot she tried to get all of us to take, did her!), and she said it was because I let it scab over and I needed to soak it and soften that sucker up, put some triple antibiotic on it and WALLA- it would be fine. I took her advice, but the next day, the redness had spread and it was difficult to bend at the knee. That was Wednesday, so I decided to bite the bullet and make a doc. appt.

I took the day off from school Thursday and called, only to find out my doctor doesn't have office hours on Thursday. You can probably figure out how often I see him since I didn't know that. I rested at home, and by afternoon, the swelling and redness were gone. I figured I'd cancel my appt. which was set for today at 5:15 PM, but first I called Ryan, my doctor son, and he told me I'd better keep that appointment and have my doctor at least look at it because I didn't want to get cellulitis. It sounded possibly serious, so I said ok, I'll go.

To make a long story longer (:)), I was sitting in the waiting room this evening when my phone rang. It's Eli on the other end telling me he had broken his finger while playing football with his buddies, and I had to come get him right now. The way he said it was, "The bone is sticking out," so I let the receptionist know that I had to go and told her why.

She grabs the doctor, and he says he'll see me quickly (since it's Friday and I won't have another chance 'til Monday). He takes one look at my knee and says I have a good infection (what the heck is a "good" infection?), has the nurse give me a tetanus shot (ouch!) and gives me a prescription for an antibiotic and an antibiotic cream (both with all kinds of possible side effects although none said anything about a 4 hour anything- whew!- which is why I don't go to doctors in the first place) and tells me if there is any change for the worse to call him immediately!

I rush to get Eli, hit every red light possible and horrible traffic to boot. Eli's calling me every 2 minutes to see where I am. I call Alan- how dare he go out of town this weekend, and I have to deal with all this!! I get to Eli, expecting to see his finger hanging off the side of his hand by a thread, and there's no bone sticking out. My drama king son probably has a jammed finger, though I probably shouldn't say that because I suppose it could be broken, and I'll feel really badly tomorrow if it is. We put ice on it, and it was well enough for him to go to a concert with his friends tonight.

Oh, oh, and do you know what Alan asked? "It wasn't his bowling hand was it?" Argh! No, dear, it wasn't. He will live to bowl another day, and by the way, will you still love me if I have to get a peg leg after this flesh eating bacteria devours this one? Happy V-Day!

Monday, February 2, 2009

It's Groundhog Day and a great day all around!

I love the idea of a groundhog telling us that we'll have 6 more weeks of winter! Of course in San Antonio, we don't have to worry about it, but we faithfully read the newspaper to find out what 'ole Punxsatawney Phil has to say about the weather. I remember in middle school being jealous of our neighbor, Bobbie Sein, who was born on February 2, and got to share her birthday with Phil. By the way, I recently heard he's only accurate about 20% of the time, but I'd have to say that's better than our local meteorologists! No big chill, no snow, no ice, no sleet. I love it when they are so wrong.

Not only is today a great day because it's Groundhog Day, but I also got some cool news. The play I co-wrote with Michael H., Darfur Calls, won the Irving J. Fain Award, which according to our rabbi is the "premiere social action award for the Union of Reform Judaism." And Rabbi wants me to go to Washington D.C. for the URJ's Consultation on Conscience in April to accept it! Even cooler, is that Kristinn and family live up there, and I'll get to see them. I don't care about getting an award, but this will hopefully give our play "legs" and the possibility of being produced in other venues across the U.S. Now THAT would be very cool!