Saturday, October 3, 2015

Are We Really Learning What We Need To Know In Kindergarten?

I don't remember much about being five or being in Kindergarten. I think that might be okay because, more than likely, it was a positive experience. What do you remember about Kindergarten?

What I do remember about teaching Kindergarten is that I was often sad and frustrated with learning objectives that were inappropriate for my students developmental window. That arbitrary standards were created, seemingly without understanding of how children grow and learn at early ages.

Now I work with sixth graders and some teachers and parents get frustrated because they are unorganized or lack focus or seem to be walking in a daze.
Of course they are.
Especially the boys.
They are adolescent, hormonal hurricanes swirling through a sea of social anxieties and pressures.

You will have to excuse them if adding fractions is low on their priority list today because (insert cute boy or girl here) may have looked at them in the hallway and it was just after PE and they are not sure, but their shirt might be on inside out and backwards because the coach rushed them out of the locker room.

 The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland

The Joyful, Illiterate Kindergartners of Finland

What I think is being lost in the grand scheme of the education debates over standards and Common Core is the basic development of a human being. Somewhere along the lines education became more important than learning. Curriculum became more important than exploration. A number became more important than development.

I am not going to hyperbolize the amazing educational events happening in other countries (I don't see Finland and Japan threatening to build walls to keep out immigrants). There are examples from Finland and Japan and even in some schools in the United States that believe helping students learn is more important than educating them.

I hope this is where our collective pedagogy returns. It's not about the curriculum or the standards or the test, it's about the students sitting in front of us and helping them develop their passion and excitement for this incredible magical miracle we call living.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Graveyard Book - A Book Review

The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It begins with a murder, a race through the night and help from the unlikeliest of sources. Little Nobody "Bod" Owens, orphaned and alone, is taken in by the ghosts of the neighborhood cemetery and protected from the evil Jack's that hunt for him.

For over a decade, the ghosts protect and raise Bod, as he explores and plays and discovers ancient places deep within the earth.

Over time he makes friends, goes to school, is abducted by demons and eventually faces the forces that initially tried to kill him as a toddler. Neil Gaiman creates a magical world that will resonate with readers as they watch grow up in the loving, vaporous arms of his ghost family.

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Whispered Screams - Book Review

Whispered ScreamsWhispered Screams by Richard Fringe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very creepy and well paced tales of suspense. All four stories explore the darker side of good intentions and what happens when we blindly follow those we trust into the shadows of human nature. These stories will not be forgotten soon, even though I might want to before it is time to go to bed.

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Saturday, August 1, 2015

Finders Keepers - Book Review

Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #2)Finders Keepers by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story is not a sequel to Mr. Mercedes. It runs parallel to the world created in the first Bill Hodges novel. You could read this novel without reading Mr. Mercedes because the first half of this novel begins with a new crime and a new set of characters. Hodges and his merry band of investigators do not show up until the end of Act II and then play a predominate role in Act III. Which is what makes this novel a bit of a head-scratcher.

The initial crime (a famous writer murdered and his secret novels stolen) and the serendipitous discovery of the stolen work by a 13 year old whose family is on tough times is an interesting hook. The story really gets rolling when Morris Bellamy, the criminal, comes after Pete Saubers, the lucky treasure hunter. Unfortunately Hodges connection to the crime is tenuous at best and outright forced at worst. It seems King might have had a great idea for a novella and then forced in Hodges and Mr. Mercedes in order to connect to a larger story arc.

Also there a moments of this novel that seem repetitious from other King novels. While Bellamy is in jail for an unrelated crime you find King plagiarizing himself as some of the prison scenes seemed to be lifted right our of his novella "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption."

The highlight of the novel is the teaser peaks into what should be an interesting conclusion to this series as Hodges begins to find evidence that the mentally injured Brady Hartfield (Mr. Mercedes) may not be as damaged as diagnosed, and worse, he may have picked up some telepathic powers along the way.

End of Watch will finish this series and hopefully we will see a more cohesive story that ties together all of the important characters of the first two novels in a more meaningful way.

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Goldfinch - Book Review

The GoldfinchThe Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The writer's job is to go out into the world, record what they can and then do their best to share it with the reader. Tartt does a wonderful job of taking her audience into the world of art crimes, loss, furniture restoration, drug addiction, mistaken love and redemption.

Theo, the protagonist, spends much of the novel trying to put back the pieces of his life that were blown apart by a terrorists bomb. The cast of characters are never flat, they live in a world Tartt has worked hard to give three dimensions. The reader will appreciate the time and craft she gives to making each character someone you cheer for or against.

It is a book that I could not put down and found to be engaging from the first page to the last.

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The Light Between Oceans - Book Review

The Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We make hundreds of decisions everyday. Our morals and ethics guide us, the voice of our conscience. But sometimes we travel down a dark path when we make the wrong decisions for the right reasons. That is the heart of the moral and ethical dilemna in The Light Between Oceans.

The uniqueness of this novel comes from the creation of sympathetic characters by author M.L. Stedman. As the story unfolds, Tom and Isabel Sherbourne, shattered by war and three miscarriages, are given a miraculous gift from the waves of the ocean. Their decisions from that point on lead to a heart wrenching story that will haunt you long after you close the book.

Sometimes there are no right answers.

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Navigating Early - Book Review

Navigating EarlyNavigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Vanderpool creates an updated version of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Updating the story to take in the special bond between two boys lost in a Maine military school due to deaths in the family.

Early Auden and Jack Baker form an unlikely friendship after Jack's military father drops Jack off in the Maine woods after Jack's mother dies. Amidst the rigor and structure of military school Jack is drawn to Early, a boy who is allowed to live outside the military routine. Soon Jack and Early are on their way, in search of a monster bear terrorizing the towns around the school.

Their journey forces them to confront pirates, slavery, and the losses that torture them both. Vanderpool creates memorable characters that make us which we were twelve again so that we could travel with them down the river, experiencing the world with awe and wonder.

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