So here's the story, from the Arte y Pico site:
"What is the meaning of the expression: Arte y Pico? Basically, ironically, it translates into a wonderful phrase in Mexico, “lo maximo.” LOL! It will never find its counterpart in English, but if it HAD to, it would be something like, Wow. The Best Art. Over the top."
Now, it's time for me to pay it forward and follow the guidelines of the award:
1) Select 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award, based on creativity, design, interesting material, and contribution to the blogger community. The blogs can be in any language.
2) Post a link to each blog so that others can visit.
3) Each award-winner has to show the award and link to the blogger that awarded it.
4) The award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show a link to Arte y Pico
Since it is quite evident that my intentions for this blog are not centered on one area, but rather reflect an at times deliberate, at times happenstance compilation of things that mean something to me and my life--as an educator, as a college graduate coming into a new identity, as a global citizen, as a person who considers herself interested in style and the achievement of it--my 5 picks will accordingly reflect a range of my interests (I hope!). I'm going to leave A Year of Reading out of the 5, but know that, had I been recognized by anyone else, they would absolutely be at the top of the list.
1. I have to admit it--I entered the blog.o.sphere with the assumption that teacher blogs would be all about instruction, materials, students, etc., and that it would be difficult to find connection with the people behind even the most wonderfully rich resources. O, how wrong I was. For starters, teacher blog is the wrong paradigm from which to approach the matter. A more appropriate perspective: people who are teachers who also happen to blog. Upon closer examination, I have found that behind the posts are people with life stories, with interests and families, with dogs that sometimes get bad haircuts (or haircuts that are considered so by owner, even if no one else can tell).
One person who demonstrated to me, early in my blog.o.sphere existence, that my notions were false was the woman behind the blog: S.S. Caldwell. S.S.'s reviews of Y.A. titles are special because they never fail to provide the reader with a sense of her knack for gauging the merits of a book on various levels. They're special because they allow a peek into what S.S. considers important and what issues she believes young people can and should be confronted with.
2. A curious and endearing mix of designer style in all of its incarnations, Kingdom of Style delivers no-nonsense posts for everyone from the occasional dabbler to the fashion devotee. No need to have viewed every collection to hit the runway (but all the better if you have)--Queen Michelle and Queen Marie will provide provocation of style sense for one and all. They are absolutely equal opportunity style hunters--beauty and sound design are pointed out with equal eloquence and passion, whether the subject is a wrought-iron bed frame or a designer shoe collection that is so decidedly un-teacher-shoe-ish.
3. My Many Colored Crayons approaches life in the classroom through a narrative lens that inspires and invigorates. The author's sense of purpose is reflected in each and every post. I always feel a sense of confirmation of my own dedication to this profession when I read this blog. And the crayon metaphor? Perfect.
4. Akin to my thoughts on A Year of Reading, if you're not reading Two Writing Teachers regularly, you truly are missing out. The teachers who co-author this blog are so clearly dedicated to being reflective practitioners. They think year-round about what it means to provide students with writing instruction that responds to their needs, and they fortify me to continue on this journey, too.
5. In a departure from the formal rules of the award, I want to name Tom Engelhardt's news blog, TomDispatch, as my number 5. I know I've talked up the merits of Engelhardt's approach to journalism before, but it's unbelievably more important now than ever for folks to be searching out independent, reliable news sources, and this blog should be counted chiefly among them. I mention often (if not here, than in the non-blog world of my existence) my belief in the responsibility of teachers to help students mitigate their place as global citizens. In order to do this work, to guide our students in answering tough questions, we, as educators, must understand our own position in the global society. We must be able to think critically about the issues facing our country now, and those that will arise as our young people mature. Being informed is step one towards understanding the possibilities for the future. Should TomDispatch be the only alternative media source one reads? Of course not. But should it be counted alongside other independent news sources as a source that inform one's ability to navigate global concerns? Absolutely.
OK there it is, my 5.
Now, I really must embark upon the rereading of Lessons That Change Writers. . .
Here are some items I'm loving for fall, all of which are laughably out of my price range, and will thus serve as fine templates for thrift store adventures:
Philip Lim's belted houndstooth pencil skirt, and I'm such a geek for turtlenecks:
The deep purple is lovely for fall, yes?
I've pined after a Burberry rain coat for some time now; this is one staple in which I am actually entertaining the idea of investing. I love the oversize quality of the collar and buttons, adds some whimsy and youth:
Michael Kors' wool pieces always have me at hello. They're always so classic. I found a fantastic plaid burnt orange/camel/brown pencil skirt last year at the thrift store and it is still in great shape. I think the wool pieces work especially well for the classroom in winter. This simple, chic belted wool dress + a fun pair of tights + ankle booties = fabulous:
I need to find one or two oversized cardigans for the season. I'm also in the market for a pair of slim pants for work, or some other appealing, functional alternative to the wide-leg trouser. Suggestions?
That's all my poor eyes can take for today! What items are on your must-have list for fall?
pics eluxury.com and net-a-porter.com
I was sad and frustrated last year at the Supreme Court decision to declare race-based integration unconstitutional. It seems an absurdity that the validity of the process of bringing students from diverse backgrounds and experiences together to enhance learning and opportunity for all would be called into question. But that was then, and this is now.
I was so pleased to find this article from the July 20th NY Times, via my NCTE Inbox this week. Class/SES-based integration seems like the next logical step towards creating schools that value and honor the need for students to be provided with equitable facilities, instruction and resources.
As the article points out, and as I myself believe, it is of course possible for schools comprised of a majority of students from low-income homes to thrive under the appropriate set of circumstances. But the evidence of years of research strongly suggests that when poor students--of any racial background--are given the opportunity to learn amidst the same circumstances as their middle-class peers, the gains are consistently observable and statistically quantifiable.
Of course, no one answer will be universally applicable. As long as poverty reigns in cities like Detroit, Boston, New York, L.A., etc.--cities in which 70%+ live below the poverty line--integration of school populations based on socioeconomic status becomes severely impeded. And the necessity of maintaining race as a factor in the integration of some areas of the country is essential. Though there are no absolutes, there are some very promising solutions being pursued by thoughtful administrators, lawyers and parents all over the U.S.
Please take the time to read the article! It's not short, but it is so worthwhile.
Here are a few excerpts:
"The chief justice didn’t address the idea of class-based integration in his opinion. But Justice Anthony Kennedy did, in a separate concurrence. And because Kennedy cast the fifth vote for the majority, his view controls the law. Though he agreed with Roberts that public school districts should not make school assignments based on the race of individual students, he added that the court’s ruling 'should not prevent school districts from continuing the important work of bringing together students of different racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds.'
. . .
Wake County adopted class-based integration with the hard-nosed goal of raising test scores. The strategy was simple: no poor schools, no bad schools. And indeed, the district has posted striking improvements in the test scores of black and low-income students: in 1995, only 40 percent of the black students in Wake County in the third through eighth grades scored at grade level in state reading tests; by last year, the rate had almostdoubled, to 82.5 percent. Statewide scores for black students also got better over the same time period, but not by as much. Wake County’s numbers improve as students get older: 92 percent of all eighth graders read at or above grade level, including about 85 percent of black students and about 80 percent of low-income students. (Math scores are lower, following a statewide trend that reflects a change in the grading scale.) The district has achieved these results even as the share of low-income students over all has increased from about 30 percent a decade ago to about 40 percent today.
. . .
If Congress were to revise No Child Left Behind to encourage more transfers of poor students to middle-class schools, would poor students drag down their better-off peers? In the end, the prospects of class-based integration will probably rise or fall on the answer to this question. Socioeconomic integration may be good for the have-nots, but if the haves think their kids are paying too great a price, they will kill it off at the polls."
My italicization. Pic nytimes.com
No, really. A professor told us this, and I couldn't agree more. There is just too much to love about this protagonist. She knows what it means to really be brave, she makes the very best of her decidedly un-glamorous circumstances by exploring and making her own fun, she hangs around weird adults and drinks tea. . .
I haven't read Neil Gaiman before, though I do have a hand-me-down copy of Anansi Boys from my mom sitting around. I do love the Anansi folktales, so I was planning on getting around to that title at some point.
What I loved about this book:
-It's been a long time since I've read a Y.A. novel so beautifully written. I mean, Carl Hiassen's Hoot was fantastic, rogue environmentalist fun, and The Lightning Thief was action-packed and fast-tempoed, and Cormier's I Am The Cheese (yes, I really am just getting to Cormier) is a dark and promising psychological thriller. All of this is true. But Gaiman seems to want to not only craft a compelling narrative, but to bring a quality of the whimsical and fanciful into the very language. Per esempio (page chosen totally at random, to demonstrate my point):
"Coraline was woken by the midmorning sun, full on her face. For a moment she felt utterly dislocated. She did not know where she was; she was not entirely sure who she was. It is astonishing just how much of what we are can be tied to the beds we wake up in in the morning, and is it astonishing how fragile that can be." (67)
Whaaaaaa? Not only a beautifully written passage, but one that assumes that the reader can and should be confronted with a mature understanding of the world. I like writers who assume this of their audience--especially when that audience is so often pigeonholed into stereotypes of utter immaturity.
-At a recent bookclub, we discussed how sometimes there is an unfortunate portrayal of the strong female as a girl obssessed with academics, somewhat annoying in manner, and fearless in a way that falls into the tomboy category. I think Gaiman avoids this characterization at all costs. Coraline is bright, sensitive, brave, loving, cunning, intuitive, tough. She is such a tender mix of all of these. She is self-reliant but not so much that she refuses the help or advice/wisdom of others. She likes to read, but gets bored of this too. She wants to explore, but doesn't consider every exploration an adventure. She knows, and states, that to be brave is to continue even in the midst of fear.
-This book is creepy. I might even call it creepy fantasy, but not horror. And there's something about the creepiness that makes the return to the normal world so much better, because the creepiness doesn't really go away. It just isn't as strong. There's a statement inherent in this story that we must appreciate that which is mundane, and Coraline, especially by the end, truly does.
-As I mentioned, Coraline really is satisfied--or, maybe enriched is the right word--by her relationships with the adults she lives with and around. She doesn't think anything of going downstairs to another flat to have tea with two old ladies, and she isn't terribly offended when no one can get her name quite right. She doesn't cry about having no other children to play with. She understands that the man upstairs may be a little kooky, but she doesn't avoid him or assume that he is up to no good. Gaiman has created a character who successfully avoids being judgmental. Kids and adults have a lot to learn here.
-Who doesn't like a talking cat?
What I'm not sure I liked (thanks S.S.!):
-Coraline's parents are super busy. They do love her, and this is obvious. I like the idea of children not be attended to 24/7; I do think kids need to learn to entertain themselves a little more. But there can also be an issue of parents being too caught up in their work. Nevertheless, the portrait of this family is an honest one--sure, mom and dad work a lot. Sure, Coraline is often left to her own devices to amuse herself. But they all care for one another deeply, even if they could use a little more time together.
-The whole other world Coraline enters is so weird I don't really even know how to describe it to myself. It's not a dream, and it's not time travel, and it's not even an alternate reality exactly, where other people liv--it's this world drawn by some force that is both lonely and cruel, a thing that yearns for others' souls, and not for companionship but rather, it seems, for entertainment. I guess what I'm saying I'm not sure I liked is that I still am not clear on how in the world this other world came into existence. It is referred to as a very old place, but its origins are never clear. I suppose this lends itself to the whole creepiness factor even more, but it seems like kind of a loose end.
-Perhaps in the same vein as my last issue, what is it that makes the special rock with a hole magical? How does it locate the souls? How does this voodoo work?! Maybe I'm not supposed to know, again. . . And what's up with the old ladies and the dude upstairs? Have they just been there forever, too?
There truly are no "What I didn't like about this book"s.
The question, then, is: which of Gaiman's books should I read next?
This one is "Bookstack Girl."
This is the work of Emily Martin, and more of it can be found on Etsy at her shop, The Black Apple. I really do want a print for every single room in my house (and, uhm, my classroom).
So, advice? Where did you go, year one, for those little extras that make your room unique? Did you bite the bullet and purchase these things full price? Is there some kind of special teacher discount emporium I'm missing out on?
I've got a few things. I am resourceful, remember? Having worked at schools for the past 6 years, I've seen my fair share of useful items on their way to the trash. I have some adorably groovy posters of turtles--one says "You're Neat!" and the other says "Behold the turtle who makes progress only when he sticks his neck out." I also have a National Poetry Month poster from my subscription to Voices from the Middle. Unfortunately, I let the borders pass me by.
I realize this is in many ways just a manifestation of my apprehensions at being a first year teacher--and not a particularly serious manifestation at that. I'm trying hard to remember that no amount of worrying will decrease the amount of craziness and busyness that will ensue very soon. . .
What I loved:
-Percy, the protagonist, has ADHD. Instead of dwelling on how the difference hinders his ability to navigate the world, a positive spin is put on the way in which the ADHD allows Percy to conquer challenges which require attention to various stimuli, all at once.
-While the book works as a major history lesson (or reinforcement of) for students immersed in the study of Greek mythology, Riordan works hard to ensure that he puts a modern, humorous and intelligent spin on some of the standard characters and situations. For example, instead of rendering an episode of the Lotus Eaters in the classic way, Riordan creates a fantasy gaming hotel--chock full of the newest and best virtual reality games and rooms stocked with all manner of candy, chips, and soda--into which Percy & co. are lured while traveling through Las Vegas. So the weakness changes, but the effect stays the same. No spoilers. You'll have to read it yourself.
-Unlike some Y.A. novels, the family dynamics of this story are believable. Percy's stepfather is painfully real to anyone who has had a stepfather they despised. The guilt and confusion Percy feels regarding his relationship with his mother seem developmentally and contextually appropriate. The family issues Percy copes with are pertinent to adolescents, and his emotions and reactions are very relatable. Bravo to Riordan for creating a complex home life for readers--one that cannot be resolved as easily as one might think.
What could have been improved:
-While Percy uses his intelligence to defeat challenges in some ways, the sword still plays a major role (hey, it's on the cover, so it's not too much of a spoiler). I would have liked to see a little more creativity here.
-Some sort of graphic organizer of the gods and goddesses at the beginning or as an appendix would be great for any reader--especially a middle schooler, and especially if Greek mythology is not being studied closely.
-The two major (non-god) bullies are girls. I understand that, in some ways, this does challenge a stereotype. But in another, very concerning way, it reinforces a binary of female as either savior or devil, especially in light of another girl character that does a whole lot of saving, and without whom Percy would be in pretty bad shape.
Have any of you read it? This is the first of a trilogy, if I'm not mistaken.
Over the years, I've accrued titles by indeed begging, borrowing, and, in some cases, stealing. That is, if you consider helping oneself to titles left abandoned for months in various lost and found piles at various educational institutions stealing (those spoiled brats should have taken better care of their things!). Ok, ok, I also borrowed a few children's books from the elementary school at which I used to work for use with some ESL students I was tutoring and sort of forgot to return them. But could you possibly bring yourself to return An Octopus Followed Me Home Today? I didn't think so. Don't worry, my not working there anymore has nothing to do with Dan Yaccarino.
Anyhow, I managed to scramble up some titles while I was still paying for things on my college tab (things being a general category encompassing all that can be procured on the campus, from the Starbucks in the library to the drastically overpriced bookstore). This part isn't really me being resourceful. Just stupid. I wish I would have skipped the on-campus lattes. I probably would be paying $40 less a month (loan repayment commenced last month--yuck!). However, my English department had a huge bookcase full of books discarded by professor-- .50c for paperback, $1 for hardcover. In this respect, I was quite resourceful. I pillaged the supply at the start (and middle... and end) of each semester, and now have a modest collection of plays, everything from your stock Shakespeare to Dylan Thomas to Sophocles, and enough poem collections to last me a lifetime. Email from a professor that someone was clearing out an office and free books were up for grabs? I was there. And may still be, so long as they don't remove me from their address books just yet...
So recently, in a new attempt at resourcefulness, I went to the book trader with an enormous box of books from my mom. Although I've bought books at the book trader before, I've never actually traded books there. The deal is pretty sweet. The book trader gives the customer 20% of the marked price of the book in store credit. All in all I ended up with $50 credit. All of the books in the store are priced at 50% of the marked price (meaning the original price on the book, not on a tag or anything), so most of the y.a. novels run about $2.50-$3 tops. When the customer purchases new books, 50% of the total can be paid for with the credit from the trade. Thus, I ended up having to pay $15, as my total was $30. I still have $35 in credit, and I can't wait to use it!
Here are the 11 titles I picked up. I tried to go for a good mix between classics and contemporary authors and to mix up the genres:
Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Edward Bloor, Tangerine
Eoin Colfer, Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident (second in series)
Robert Cormier, I Am the Cheese and The Chocolate War
Nancy Farmer, A Girl Named Disaster (A Newbery Honor Book)
Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl
Neil Gaiman, Coraline
Karen Hesse, Letters from Rifka (National Jewish Book Award) and The Music of Dolphins
Joyce Carol Oates, Telling Stories: An Anthology for Writers
I'm really excited about the Oates short story collection. Because it is intended for writers, the anthology is codified by the type of writing being studied (Memoir, Dramatic Monologue, etc.). Thus, it makes an ideal resource for writing workshop mentor texts. The texts themselves are phenomenal, and range from pieces by Chekhov to Jean Rhys (Wide Sargasso Sea was a postcolonial lit fav!), from Kerouac to Kafka to Hurston to (barf) Hemingway.
Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust was a favorite of mine--a text I read back in my Young Adult Lit. course. I am looking forward to discovering all the new titles I found have to offer.
I haven't read the Artemis Fowl series yet. I'm reserving judgment. Even if I'm not thrilled with its literary merits, I have to remember that kids need a chance to read solely for enjoyment, too, and that this kind of reading does plenty for their reader selves.
So that's all for today. I managed to get through the H last names, besides the Oates anthology. I'm eagerly anticipating my next trip! Oh, and I've finished Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief and loved it. I will do a post on it soon.
Read more about the U.S. relationship with the MEK in an article by Patrick Cockburn--not to be confused with his brother, Alexander Cockburn, co-editor of Counterpunch--for The Independent here.
With all of the hullabaloo regarding whether an attack on Iran is imminent, Tom Engelhardt's rationality is a welcomed change. His take on why the administration won't be attacking Iran, despite all the noise, was a much needed return to reality (though the oil news remains bleak). Do yourself a favor and view his article here.
You Shall Above All Things
you shall above all things be glad and young.
For if you're young, whatever life you wear
it will become you;and if you are glad
whatever's living will yourself become.
Girlboys may nothing more than boygirls need:
i can entirely her only love
whose any mystery makes every man's
flesh put space on;and his mind take off time
that you should ever think,may god forbid
and(in his mercy)your true lover spare:
for that way knowledge lies,the foetal grave
called progress,and negation's dead undoom.
I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing
than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, when you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Ok, so Viktor E. Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning is admittedly not a book one might describe as warm. It details Frankl's existence in 4 concentration camps throughout Nazi Germany, his eventual freedom, and the psychological states associated with various aspects of his journey and the journeys of other survivors of the Holocaust. Part memoir, part theory, this book has really provoked me to reflect on my suppositions of what it means to have meaning in one's life.
Frankl--a psychologist--details, in the second half of the book, his theory of logotherapy. Logotherapy--from the Greek, logos, for meaning--represented a major break from the Freudian psychoanalysis vein of psychology/psychiatry of the day--thank goodness for that, for Freud was nothing if not a misogynist.
The theory of logotherapy, in short: "in comparison with psychoanalysis, [it is] a method less retrospective and more introspective. Logotherapy focuses rather on the future, that is to say, on the meanings to be fulfilled by the patient in his future." (98).
Frankl's theory appeals to me, in part, because of the shift in onus of responsibility it necessitates. Instead of a somewhat fatalistic understanding of meaning as something that transcends our comprehension far into adulthood--something that puzzles and vexes the soul--Frankl's ideas suggest that we must actively construct and recognize the meaning that lies in every single day of our lives, the meaning unique to each individual. The meaning is there; all we need to do is take a moment to accept that it may not be as grandiose or as elusive as we may have hoped. After all, if I'm absolutely sure the meaning of my life is far beyond my capacity to understand, I'd might as well bury my head in the sand and not bother about acknowledging it. This view, contrary to Frankl's ideas, breeds powerlessness and hopelessness. And it also breeds annoying, spoiled college students who whine about what they want to "do with their life," as if they should be handed, on a silver platter, the magical key to a life of ease and happiness. Quite on the contrary, Frankl's theory effectively negates the idea that our lives cannot be meaningful in the midst of suffering.
Frankl insists (discussing his time in Nazi prison camps, amongst his fellow prisoners), "We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life--daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual." (77).
I am appreciative of what Frankl espouses not least of all because the meaning becomes very concrete and to some degree very controllable. One cannot choose one's circumstances, but one certainly can decide upon one's reaction to them--a theme that runs throughout the book. Not only can one control the reaction, but the degree to which the circumstances will fortify one's life--one's perspective, one's sense of self, one's ability to navigate the joys and disappointments life presents. And there is no secret formula. One must conduct oneself honorably, one must move through life with a sense of duty to others.
As a first-year educator embarking on a very new and in some ways scary journey, Frankl's words resonate with me. You see, teaching is in some ways an isolating profession. Students aside, people don't generally wander into your classroom to ask you about how your day is going or how your lesson worked out (mentorship for year 1 notwithstanding). There is a responsibility, because of this degree of. . . well, privacy, really, for the educator to be accountable to herself. I do not have to answer to my colleagues as to whether or not I'm really working as hard as I should be--but I certainly have to answer to myself, every single day and every single time my head hits the pillow. One of the reasons I chose this path is because it is one that requires the individual, that requires me to honor myself and the commitment I've made each and every day. I have to honor my students with my dedication and preparation. But it is only I who will truly know whethere I've chosen right action of which Frankl speaks.
I still don't think I'm quite getting at the core of what I like about Frankl's no-nonsense approach to meaning. Your thoughts?