Category Archives: books

Freedom Writers

So, I have to admit…when I went to Long Beach on Friday morning, I was skeptical. I didn’t know what to think. I’ve seen the Freedom Writers movie. I’ve read the Freedom Writers Diary. Both were touching. Both were almost too incredible to believe, but after teaching a few years in an urban setting (though my city is not a BIG city, it’s still a city and I’m at an “urban” school), I knew that those types of occurrences or situations can happen.

I never expected to be affected like I was. I cried, a lot. Some of it was in response to hearing from actual Freedom Writers. Some of it was in reaction to stories and situations that struck too close to home.

Erin Gruwell is THE MOST POSITIVE/UPBEAT person I’ve ever met in my life. My friend Susanna from high school is a close second. She is so committed to what the Freedom Writers Institute is doing and their methods. I want so badly to be able to have some of that positivity.

I wish that I would have written this post 2 weeks ago, or whenever it was that I just returned from CA. I feel as if I’ve forgotten so much. Plus…there’s only so much that I can say. As part of my training, there are many things that I have to keep confidential. But…I have more ideas on how to teach and how to reach my students.

Let’s hope the $25 I spent on notebooks (230 of them!) will pay off…I have a lot to do this week. (We start with kids on the 16th).



Filed under beginnings, books, expectations, instruction, planning, writing


and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’, and the cotton is high…

Or, if you so choose, you can think of the Will Smith song Summertime (from my junior high days)…anyway…

The question du jour lately is what am I doing this summer? I’m actually doing a lot. When I don’t have stuff to do, then I take things to the extreme in the opposite direction. I much resemble a slug, in fact.

1) Summer School: I’m teaching summer school at a different school w/in my district. Let’s just say, that summer school will be a cakewalk. Little to no planning, plus $30 an hour for half days till June 29? It’s awesome. Plus, it will help pay for my classes next fall and spring.

2) Grad school: I’m taking two classes as part of my grad program this summer. First class is Colloquium on American Lit, the second class is Reading Problems. My reading list is pretty extensive.
American Literature
a) With Rigor for All by Carol Jago
b) Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
c) Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
d) Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
e) The Fall of the House of Usher and other writings by Edgar Allen Poe
f) Collected Stories by Willa Cather
g) selections from the Norton Anthology from 1865 to the present

Reading Problems

a) Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
b) When Kids Can’t Read by Kylene Beers

After all my “edumication” is over, I have a family trip planned for the fourth of July weekend. I also have to attend PD related to new grading practices my district. We are planning to move to a 5-point grading scale next year. I’m not sure how that will work or look. But, at least we’re not changing our grading practices in one fell swoop.

I have one more thing that I’m hoping to do during July, but I don’t know for sure about that yet. So, when I find out, that’s another post.

What about you all? What are you doing for the summer?

1 Comment

Filed under American Lit, books, summer school, work

Conundrum: Books

I thought I’d bring this to the blogosphere. Maybe someone has some ideas out there.

Many books in the “canon” (particularly for juniors) are boring as hell, when you’re a high schooler. However, they are classics! They are wonderful books that speak to the human condition, inspire nostalgia, expose travesties and are eloquently written. These points are lost on a generation that has grown up in a time when MTV hardly ever plays music videos and text messaging is the preferred form of communication. These children/students don’t identify with the characters and situations in such wonderful books as My Antonia, Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, etc.

My quandary is this: 1) I think these are important books and students NEED to be exposed to them. They need to read them, know them, etc. But, 2) I want students to enjoy what they read and to become readers. Avid readers — readers who devour books — are my dream. I fear that the choices we offer as a school district for 1 does not go along with 2. So, what do we as teachers do? We’re trying to offer books that appeal more to students, but like most districts/schools, my hands are tied by the approved book list AND a lack of funds to dramatically add to the list. Yet, choices must be tempered with the ideals of what is appropriate for a school text. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Frye? Frye?

Note: the junior year (American Lit) is the year that I think is most lacking. Our themes for the year go by quarters: Freedom, Struggle and Persecution, Movements and Justice, and The American Dream and Disillusionment. Books, poems, non-fiction, short stories, and essays must fit into one of those themes. It’s hard to find any novels (particularly YA novels) that fit the freedom theme and are written by American authors. Any help is appreciated.


Filed under American Lit, books, juniors, YA lit

Teacher Nerd Books

So…what have I been buying? These are the books I’ve purchased within the last year or so, actually, since I’ve started teaching…related to teaching. First, I’ll make the list. Then, later on, I suppose I’ll have to review them, eh? Oh…some of these are books I’ve been given too.

Reading Reminders by Jim Burke
Tools for Thought by Jim Burke (he’s kinda my hero)
Hip Hop Poetry by Alan Sitomer
Woe is I by Patricia O’Conner
English Teacher’s Companion by Jim Burke
Teaching English by Design by Peter Smagorinsky
Plagiarism by Barry Gilmore
Whose Grammar Book Is This Anyway? by C. Edward Good
Teaching Outside of the Box by LouAnne Johnson
Teaching with Love and Logic by Jim Fay and David Funk
Freedom Writer’s Diary by Erin Gruwell
The Essential 55 by Ron Clark
Setting Limits in the Classroom by Robert Mackenzie
A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne
How to Teach Students Who Don’t Look Like You by Bonnie Davis
I Read it but I Don’t Get It by Cris Tovani
When Kids Can’t Read by Kylene Beers

Ok…that’s it that I can think of for now…impressive, huh?

Leave a comment

Filed under books, English, reading, teaching, writing

New things

New president — yay! My vote counted for the first time in 12 years!

New picture — yay! Kitties and Star Wars — two very cool things.

New book — yay! I bought the latest book in the Merry Gentry series by Laurell K Hamilton — Swallowing Darkness.

And, that’s all I’ve got for right now. I’m hungry — gonna use my plan time to find some food!

Leave a comment

Filed under books, random

A book meme — just because

What kind of English teacher would I be if I DIDN’T do a books meme?Swiped this from my pal w/ brown eyes.

1) Bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE
4) Reprint this list in your own blog.

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (#3 is my favorite, but #7 was masterful!)
5) To Kill a Mockingbird
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell (I’ve read some of it, just can’t finish it)
9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien (so fun!)
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell (amazing)
22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald –I’ve tried to read this book, like, 3x, to no avail. It bores me.
23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck –bleagh I hated this book in HS
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding (also reading this right now)
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley (I’m reading it right now)
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Ronald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

**I ask you though…why are there never any Willa Cather books on here? Or anything by Alice Hoffman? Or anything trashy like Nora Roberts? Or Jennifer Weiner (who I can’t think how to describe right now)? Just wondering…

Leave a comment

Filed under books

Logically? Chrono…logically?

(how is it that it’s already past midnight? gah!)

I was writing down ideas tonight for school, while at my part-time job. I think that I’d like to have at least one novel or excerpts from a novel from the major eras in our country’s history. Or, something like that. I also would like to make sure I have a good representation of ethnicities in the classroom. [Frustrating though: my coworker/manager told me tonight that my students won’t care if I do. And, if they DO care, it’s just b/c they want to get out of doing homework (which didn’t make sense to me). I HATE when people are all doom & gloom towards me & my new career path. Yes, I know it’ll be difficult, but you don’t have to be a complete sourpuss about it!]

So, I need to go look through the BIG list I have, AGAIN, and re-evaluate. GAH!!! I’m running out of time!

And, speaking of time…only FIVE DAYS till I have the copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in my hot little hands! YOWZA!!

(Side note: I did this online personality test thingie tonight. I LOVE these. It told me I have low self-esteem/confidence though. Which, lately, I do.) <script src="“>

Leave a comment

Filed under books, planning, quizzes