Here I am : a novel / Jonathan Safran Foer.
Substitute: Going to School With a Thousand Kids by Nicholson Baker
Classroom Management Techniques (Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers) by Jim Scrivener
Frankenstein: A Pop-Up Book by Sam Ito
The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz (Hiro)
The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury
Mesmerized : how Ben Franklin solved a mystery that baffled all of France by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Iacapo Bruno.
Committees and Research is the main focus of this month, as all my deadlines seem to be piling up before the end of the year. Currently I am on the FCC- faculty curriculum committee, FLC- faculty learning Committee-with a research project for Classroom Management, doing research for a Drawing for 3-D presentation as well as being asked to present at someone else's research round table.
But since we are now in the periphery of the dark ages, with the recent most depressing election result, I must keep reading -not newspapers and social media posts- (thank god I got rid of Twitter) but fiction to keep my spirits up.
So when I saw that Jonathan Safran Foer published a new book, I immediately requested it from the library...and was surprised that it was immediately available.
Here I Am- has one of the most beautifully written biography of a life in one long sentence opening the novel:
"He had lived in an apartment with books touching the ceilings, and rugs thick enough to hide dice; then in a room and a half with dirt floors; on forest floors, under unconcerned stars; under the floorboards of a Christian who, half a world and three-quarters of a century away, would have a tree planted to commemorate his righteousness; in a hole for so many days his knees would never wholly unbend; among Gypsies and partisans and half-decent Poles; in transit, refugee, and displaced persons camps; on a boat with a bottle with a boat that an insomniac agnostic had miraculously constructed inside it; on the other side of an ocean he would never wholly cross; above half a dozen grocery stores he killed himself fixing up and selling for small profits; beside a woman who rechecked the locks until she broke them, and died of old age at forty-two without a syllable of praise in her throat but the cells of her murdered mother still dividing in her brain; and finally, for the last quarter century, in a snow-globe-quiet Silver Spring split-level; ten pounds of Roman Vishniac bleaching on the coffee table; Enemies, A Love Story demagnetizing in the world's last functional VCR; egg salad becoming bird flu in a refrigerator mummified with photographs of gorgeous, genius, tumorless great-grandchildren."
But in the end, I ended up quitting this heavy 571 pg book because it was too....tooo... tooo....much.
Foer's latest book continuously makes references to current or most recent news reports- just drops them in as images such as when discussing how it was unfair that the hardware store could stock so much stuff is compared with "a world where the bodies of Syrian children washed up on beaches" being "unethical". I don't need that kind of juxtaposition. It felt like news flash dropping like visual sound bites.
I want to read something that feels timeless, and all these modern day specifics of the current climate of NYC, of Brooklyn, of Park Slope already seem dated.
So I dropped it on page 89, after the second chapter titled "Epitome"
This time of year every notable paper and magazine starts to publish the "gift guide" or "best books of the year" into their book section. So I've begun my next year's book list...and also bought a few hard bound books to tide me over...and thus Nicholas Baker's Substitute was purchased.
Its a light read, though heavy in weight and heft. Each chapter chronicles a one day in the life of a substitute teacher- covering any subject matter in any grade from K-12. It was meant to be humorous, but in the current teaching hell I'm going through- with one student (one of the worst I've had in a while) bringing me up on charges for discrimination, and having to constantly reprimand students to put their cell phones away while I lecture, I could not get through it. Though I did get an eye opening reason as to why my first year college students are the way they are in terms of not having the "grit" to follow through and stay on task since high school seems to be a place to socialize (having "theme" days to make school fun to go to by having superhero day, sports day or pajama day) and make playlists. Mr. Baker, the poor sub (though he was upbeat and caring) spent most of his time telling kids to be quiet or juggling curriculum with outside interferences such as students sneaking to play video games during class, and basically a lot of time spent dealing with iPads, smart phones and music devices.
- teacher's conversation: pg 195. The iPads had been a financial disaster, he felt. Any kid who messed up his iPad and had to have it restored should get a detention.
- pg 197 during class: Bethany, Kimberly and Felicity began planning a group Wonder Woman selfie.
- pg. 208 during class: Regan was playing hip-hop from his iPad speakers.
- pg 223 in class "pointing accusingly at (student's) iPad. "Busta Ryhmes? You have so much work to do! You have everything done?"
- pg 229. He stuffed his earbuds in to get rid of me.
- pg 209 about using difficult and hard to use software to teach in class: Educate. I wondered for a moment about how much money (the school) had spent to lease and customize and troubleshoot this fancy, colorful software, plus Edmodo, Infinite Campus, IXL, and other. Probably a fair amount. Educate, a company founded in Alaska by a group pf homeschooling data analysts from the oil industry, had sold it's "mass personalized learning" system to low-test-score districts all over the country"
We have a nation of children being taught by the large corporations and oil industry's greed...
Though I did pick up some snappy lines to make kids quiet without being rude: "All right, it's starting to get above the plateau! The plateau of misery where the SOUND IT TOO LOUD!"
And my Year of Reading ends with some vintage Sci-fi. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury. Frighteningly accurate in how he saw the future, which is where we are now. Impersonal, being ruled by computers and bleak.