Tuesday, February 23, 2010

new books!


With the help of a small class of students, all these books are stamped, numbered, cataloged, and ready for distribution! My catalog system is this: each book's title and number are written on an index card. When borrowing books, students write their names and date on the index cards. They have to return the books to me, and I will write the return dates on the card). I'm going to keep close watch on the books - no open book shelf system.

I made these piles according to alphabetical order by title (that's how I numbered the books) during the numbering process, and you can see several of the graphic novel biographies. Most of the 90 titles I ordered were fiction (different genres), but I really tried to find nonfiction titles and ordered some memoirs and biographies. I'm not sure how interesting the graphic biographies will be for students - we'll see!

Monday, February 22, 2010

good day, bad evening

Great first day back to school from break, despite the fact that my lesson planner is still missing. My classes went well, my massive book order arrived, and it was generally a smooth day. (Our district allowed our department to order novels/individual books in lieu of textbooks this year! We haven't ordered textbooks in years, and finally last fall a colleague asked, so can we use textbook money to buy books for students to read? I ordered 90 titles from Perma-bound, a mix of fiction, nonfiction, realistic fiction, historical fiction, biography, memoirs, sci fi and fantasy, graphic novels, etc. I'm soooo excited to book talk them out the classroom door!)

At home, despite a decent dinner start, my high spirits from the school day plummeted. My family/household unit is not large, just one husband, one daughter, one mother-in-law who has Alzheimer's. But I ran out of energy and interest in taking care of someone other than me.

So today I am full of energy and enthusiasm for my work life, and full of selfish resentment for my home life.

PS - Go USA Hockey!!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Happy New Year (of the Tiger)!

We celebrated Chinese New Year with a 3-day Toronto vacation that included a Chinatown walking tour (check out A Taste of the World if you're ever in Toronto!) with food, snacks, and tea plus lion dances! Extra lucky for us - this is break week - no school!

Picture #1 - chocolate tigers in gold foil, tea shop on Dundas St.
#2 - Meats ready to be served and eaten in noodle shop where we ate dinner on Saturday, Spadina Av.
#3 - Lucky Moose statue, local landmark where our tour began on Dundas St.
#4 - Lion Dance performance outside Dragon City Mall, corner of Spadina and Dundas.
#5 - BBQ duck and pork noodle soup, my dinner at noodle shop (see #2)
#6 - Dim sum lunch concluded our tour on New Year's Day

Thursday, February 4, 2010

farms and books

Last night I wrote a long email to 3 good friends who are also educators, and while I wrote, my daughter asked, "Are you writing for that thing?" I'm pretty sure she meant "this blog", so I said, "No, not my blog. It's an email to my friends." She must have noticed my writing concentration and effort, because I really was trying to tell my friends a story about the farm I just visited yesterday after school and the book I'm reading, The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (also loved his book In Defense of Food and latest Food Rules).  So here's the main text of that email:

I'm almost done with The Omnivore's Dilemma. When I read the part about the local farmer in Virginia (this amazing farmer who ROTATES the animals, first cows then poultry, around the property to eat up and then fertilize the grass, in this very complex and precise schedule throughout the year, so that the land is just exactly properly grown (with grass) and maintained to feed the animals), I knew the final section about growing your own food was coming next, and I felt I was ready to commit my family to growing a small veggie garden in our backyard this year. Then I started reading the last section, and it's not just growing your own food, but hunting and gathering. Yep. Pollan wrote about going wild (feral) pig hunting with some guys, and how while he was "training" (to shoot, to get his license), he started to see the "natural" surroundings in a different way. He tried to spot edible plants, for example.  I was like, no way, ew.

Back track to a week ago when I put out the email about starting a "Now Reading" folder in our school email system and mentioned that I'm reading Pollan's book, KA replied and said she buys meats at a farm in Hamburg called Duink Farms.  I've been thinking about the meat issue for some time, trying to find the middle ground between supermarkets and going to D [my friend's husband who operates a CSA farm] for broilers, somewhere closer, meats I can handle/store/cook more readily. So I went with her today after school - it's about 10 minutes south of the village, and bought some chicken thigh/rear quarters, ground pork, sausage links, and eggs. The owner guy was in this shed on his farm property, nice guy. A bunch of us squeezed in the shed waiting our turns, surrounded by a few freezers and refrigerators. Outside, his animals (and veggies?) are in this long opaque domed tarp thing, some distance behind the shed, and we heard some animals (sheep?). CH, have you heard of this place? Anyway, I'll let you folks know how the meat tastes.  He also sells angus beef, lamb meats, other pork meats, a few veggies. His "store" hours are Wednesday afternoons/eves and Saturday mornings.

OK, stay with me, b/c this is the funny part. Driving home from Duink Farms, I'm very pleased with my "local eating" endeavor.  When I am about 2 minutes away from our house, driving down a side street, and 2 deer walk across the road. I slam on brakes, and really look at them, and for the first time ever, I think, "hm, they look like they could be yummy to eat."  NO JOKE!  When I first moved to [this town], I thought deer were cute, then I thought they were a menace (to cars/drivers), and now!!!

Hm, anything else? Oh, CS, re nonfiction reading, I think genre requirements are the way to go. "Forcing" them to try different genres is totally worthwhile and completely legit and they KNOW it's reasonable, even if they grumble at first.  It has pushed even my "smartest", most skilled, most literary students to stretch beyond their comfort zone.  It's a very attainable goal for the struggling reader, as it actually guides their choices, and can offer appropriate reading levels and really interesting topics.  I'm looking forward to the workshop (with MC) tomorrow - I saw her packets for us, some good stuff!

Last but not least, I'm reading Anne Frank's diary. I don't think I've really re-read it since I first read it in junior high or high school. I've read and taught the play in our anthology a few times, but her diary is quite involved and detailed.