Friday, March 31, 2006

New books

Teacher Man
Frank McCourt

Overall a good book. I liked some of his acntedotes, like the sandwich story where a kid whips a sandwich at him and he proceeds to pick it up off the floor and eat it to make a point and the reading cookbooks to music instead of reading a "boring" novel story. He did travel down the familiar "poor me" route a number of times. I really enjoyed Angela's Ashes and thought the sequel 'Tis was good, but not as good as the first. Teacher man was not as good as Angela's Ashes, but better than 'Tis. Boy, what a boring book review. Bottom line, only read this book if you've read and enjoyed his other work or if you like stories about out of the box teaching. If you are choosing Teacher Man for the latter, ignore the bits where he digresses into his past and/or is whinging.

Wyoming Stories
Annie Proulx

Tried to get through the rest of these stories, but I didn't really dig the cowboy themes. I suppose Brokeback Mountain struck a chord more with the love story than the cowboy story. I left two stories unread because of that. I still like Annie Proulx style, and she still paints vivid pictures on the page. We'll see what happens with the next book.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Book Review Time!

Post Secret
Frank Warren

This is an unbelievable piece of art. I say art because it is like a bunch of postcard sized graphic novels to be read in picture and in word. Frank Warren started it by placing bunches of blank postcards in random places and invited people to creatively write out a secret that they had never told anyone before and post it to his home in Germantown, Maryland. It's really something you have to see for yourself. The similarities in the human spirit across all places are staggering.

Here are a few that grabbed me:

I want to be in love, but I'm afraid it won't solve all my problems like I want it to.

I can't think of a secret, except that I don't think I'm interesting enough to have a secret.

I don't wear my ring because I don't love her, not because I don't like rings.

I envy the willpower of anorexics.

And the one that struck me the most:

When I'm alone I see myself as beautiful. It's when I'm around others that I feel so ugly and flawed.

Intrigued? It's quite the read.

The Shipping News
Annie Proulx

Unbelievable. I haven't read anything so raw in its descriptive narrative in a long time. The words were like pictures jumping off the page. Sometimes the descriptions were so visceral it made my stomach turn. And other times, so beautiful you wanted to be there, which really makes me want to hop a plane to Newfoundland. I've always wanted to go, but now even more. Some people have told me that the movie with Kevin Spacey is not as good as the book, but I find that movies aren't often as good anyway. I still think I'll see it. I am definitely going to be reading all her other work.

Brokeback Mountain
Annie Proulx

I'm currently reading Wyoming Stories (a collection of short stories) and of course I read Brokeback Mountain first which is why I got out the book in the first place! I saw the movie before I knew it was a story and as soon as I left the theatre I wanted to read the story. Again, unbelievable. 20 min of film made from one sentence. So much beauty and pain in such a small number of words. So much implied with so little. Made me cry and books rarely do that. Movies do though, and I cried my eyes out at Brokeback Mountain. Absolutely a new favorite writer for me.

Figure Skating

I'm watching the women's long program for the 2006 Worlds. It's reminding me of how much I miss skating. Skating was a sport that I didn't give up before I broke my ankle, I actually had to give it up because of expense. I had to get orthotics for my shoes and subsequently would have had to get orthotics for my skates. Since the orthotics are custom made for skates, it wouldn't have made any sense to put them into my old boots which were starting to break down. So basically I was looking at about $1500 in new skating equipment. Anyway, I'm trying to figure out if my ankle will be able to take it again, but if am successful in going back to highland dancing then it will. And of course, I live right next to the rink that I skate at, so that's another pull factor.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Gender Differences by Dr. Leonard Sax

The book I'm reading is so long and full of great information that I have to blog halfway through it in order to remember what I want to say about it. I agree with many of the theories Leonard Sax is putting forth. My only issue, and this may be dealt with later on in the book, is that he never addresses the fact that most teachers do not work in an ideal environment, meaning, they aren't able to get a job in a same sex classroom. Even private schools in Canada don't have many of those. So teachers need practical suggestions for teaching to gender differences, given that there will be both sexes in the classroom. As a sidebar to parents, whenever you think your voice can be heard, lobby for same sex classrooms.

Ok, have finished the book now so can now comment on the whole thing. Turns out he didn't address how you go about implementing same sex teaching strategies in a co-ed classroom. I suppose you could implement two completely different programs, but aside from doubling the workload, it would raise issues of equity among class members, if there were different tests, or time frames for completing assignments etc. Also you couldn't gear the lessons to one gender, without alienating the other. So again, parents, either put your children in a same sex school or see if your public school would be interested in experimenting with same sex classes.

I found the book focused mostly on parenting, and a little on teaching, gender specifically. I was happy to see some suggestions that made a lot of sense and would eventually help a child become a well-adjusted person. I was appalled at some of the case studies, and had horrific thoughts of how many others there must be if Sax is using the scenario as an example. The examples made me angry and confused as to why someone would think what they were doing was helpful or appropriate.

Another part I found fascinating was the chapter that dealt with homosexuality as it relates to gender differences. The concept of the anomalous male is exemplified in someone I know down to a T. It was a real Aha momment when I figured out that this person fit the criteria. I also found it interesting and saw the truth in the fact that anomalous girls are often popular and well adjusted in middle and high school where as anomalous boys are often loners and walled in. There seems to be no conclusive evidence that an anomalous male will be gay or straight. But the parenting advice for anomalous males makes a lot of sense.

A great read, for teachers and definitely for parents. Bottom line, go with your child's personality, not against it. Be positive, consistent and equitable in your discipline. Be a PARENT not a FRIEND (at least until they are adults themselves) to your child. No negotiations with your child. Recognize that there are differences between boys and girls.

I cannot believe how long it took me to read this book! I have no time! I had to renew it 3 times, at 3 weeks a pop, 12 weeks is the longest I've taken to read a book. But I'm glad I did. On to the next...