The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chuck Palahniuk---A Genius

Palahniuk's book Haunted is brilliant.  If you are a writer, it's a novel you will have to add to your "must read" list.  The basic plot is so quirky, and twisted, you won't want to put it down.

The premise is this: a group of writers go on an extended writing retreat.  They are cut off from all outside contact for three months, all so they can write the next great American novel.  However, they soon realize that they don't have anything to write about, so they start doing things to each other to inspire themselves.

The book is written from the perspective of the various writers.  Each story from each writer begins with a free verse poem (or perhaps some prose; I'm not sure).

Warning: One of the first stories called "Guts" is quite graphic (as far as what teenaged boys will do to gratify themselves).  But, it doesn't get any grosser than that.  (And I'll admit, that story was like a gory car accident...I couldn't tear my attention away from it.)

Check Palahniuk out if you like books that are wicked cool, quirky, and well written...

The Feel of an ebook in Your Hand

A voracious reader all my life, I have inhaled everything from Nancy Drew mysteries when I was 11 to today, when I fell head over heels for a book called Haunted.  Until recently, I have turned my nose up at ebook readers. (Not the people, but instead, the technology.)  After all, I love the feel of a book in my hands.  I like to be able and go back to the previous page and reread part of it.  I adore falling asleep on a Sunday afternoon with a book in my hand, the drool pooling next to me...

Then on Mother's Day I got a gift of an ebook reader, and surprisingly, I really like it.  I appreciate being able to get a book---within a minute or two.  I hate to admit it, but there are times when I'd like a particular book NOW, and ordering from Amazon will take too long.  Also, when I travel this summer, I will not have to take a whole case of books.  All I will need to bring with me is my ebook reader.

There are choices to check out.  There's Kindle, along with the Nook, as well as others.  Do your research, try them out if you have the opportunity, talk with people who have one, and see which one is for you.  And enjoy the reading...

Monday, June 28, 2010

France...A Small Digression

For my next post, I will write about how cool data can be (yes, that phrase dates me; I could have called data "groovy" but I resisted). However, I wanted to explain the photo. Southern France. At foot of the Pyrenees Mountains. After eating a casserole of potatoes, cheese, cream and onion (and of course, wine) we continued down the path toward the circle of mountains.

The southern part of France is my favorite spot on Earth. The habit of savoring every taste, every conversation, every's relaxing and delightful. Last summer I stayed for a few weeks near Pau, and the memories are still vivid a year later.

Okay, back to data. Enough of "off road" thoughts. I have been reading about data, and studying how to make decisions that are informed because of data; I found a couple of articles I'd like you to check out.

One is found at

The other is

During this last month of my summer break, I am going to be working on mapping out my classroom and my thinking, so the students can take ownership of their data. I also want the data to work for me, with a minimum of extra time and a maximum of results. If anyone has any ideas to help me out, please add your comment. Teaching----in a room, alone with just the teacher and the students---is a private endeavor. When others (like you) are welcomed into a colleague's classroom (via your comments and suggestions), powerful collaboration is inevitable. And all of a sudden, I feel rejuvenated and jazzed about the work I do...

Have a great evening!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Teacher's Summer

People who bemoan teachers' three months off drive me crazy, and make me want to go straight for their jugular. The span of summer (a scant two months) is taken up with reading (for pleasure as well as "work" reading), doing as few home projects as I can get by with, and engaging in those little pleasures that I don't have the energy for during the school year.

For instance, I hope to get together with my book group. The last book we read and discussed was Same Kind of Different as Me--a great memoir. I just finished Mary Karr's Lit. She's the author of two other marvelous memoirs. Her perspective is unflinching...The women in our group are spirited and passionate, and sharp-witted. The barbs fly---all in fun---over a great discussion and tasty food.

Jodi Piccoult is an author I have been digging into for the last year or so. It amazes me, but with every one of her books, I read the inside blurb, it doesn't blow me away, but I succumb (because this happens every time)and the plot, the research, the emotional tugging does blow me away. The latest one I read was about a family dealing with a child born with fragile bones. Even on the last page, her characteristic twists kept me guessing. (If you are in the habit like I am sometimes, of reading the first few lines and then turning to the end and reading it, with this book, don't. The end is heartbreakingly surprising.)

That is the sort of fun fare that keeps me occupied this summer as far as reading. I am also engaged in becoming more data driven as a teacher. On my next blog, I'll note some stuff about data and pre-tests and post-tests, how being reflective is crucial, and also, how documentation can help protect educators...